The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project received a grant to fund additional staff to support their efforts to identify and investigate wrongful convictions.
The combined $219,366 in funds from the U.S. Department of Justice will provide for a full-time investigator in the Conviction Integrity Unit in the state’s attorney’s office, a part-time paralegal to be shared by the Innocence Project and its University of Baltimore School of Law clinic, and other expenses, according to a news release.
The new staff will enable the organizations to increase the number of cases they can investigate and litigate. There is already one full-time prosecutor and dedicated law clerk assigned to the Conviction Integrity Unit, which has investigated and agreed to exonerate two men in the last two years who were serving life sentences for murders they did not commit.
“After exonerating two men who involuntarily surrendered nearly 30 years of their lives collectively for crimes neither of them committed, as chief prosecutor, I feel obligated to make sure that we got it right,” State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said in a prepared statement.
Lamar Johnson was released in September, seven years after the Innocence Project took on his case and 15 months after the case was presented to the CIU for their own investigation. Prosecutors joined the defense in requesting the conviction be vacated.
Malcolm Jabbar Bryant was released last year after the CIU agreed to support new DNA testing where previous state’s attorney administrations would not. The UB Law Innocence Project Clinic worked on Bryant’s case for eight years.
“When innocence organizations can collaborate with prosecutors, (the accused) can be freed more quickly,” Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project said in a prepared statement. “We’ve seen how well that can work with the SAO, and we’re thrilled that we’ll be able to formalize those successful efforts through this grant.”
There are currently more than 30 active investigations of potential wrongful convictions, according to the release, and Lauren Lipscomb, who heads the unit, said wrongful convictions represent justice lost.
“Winning this grant from the Department of Justice in furtherance of our collaboration with MAIP and UBIPC is extraordinary and responsive to our demonstrated commitment to unearth those instances of wrongful conviction in our continuing obligation to achieve justice,” Lipscomb said in a prepared statement.