WHAT KINDS OF CASES DOES THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT ACCEPT?
GIP investigates post-conviction criminal cases where there is a compelling innocence claim. We accept cases where innocence can be proven, typically through modern DNA testing methods that were not available at the time of trial. Though we receive hundreds of requests for help each year, we have limited resources and can only accept a very small number of cases. We have strict acceptance criteria, all of which must be met before we can accept a case:
- Your case must be post-conviction.
- The crime of conviction must have occurred in Georgia;
- Your direct appeal must be completed;
- No other attorney can be working on your criminal case right now;
- You must have at least five years left on your sentence to serve in prison, or you must be on the Georgia Sex Offender Registry;
- You must have a claim of actual innocence that can be proven through modern DNA testing or other newly available evidence; and
We cannot accept your case if you agree that you played any role in the crime, even a minor role, or if any of the following apply:
- You feel you should be Not Guilty because of self-defense, accident, or mental defense;
- You were convicted of a sex crime for a sexual encounter that was consensual;
- You feel you should have been convicted of a different crime or should have received a shorter sentence.
WHAT IS THE COST TO ME?
GIP provides its services free of charge, although some clients may be asked to contribute to expenses related to investigation or testing.
HOW DO I APPLY TO THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT?
The person convicted of the crime must write us a letter, via U.S. postal mail or other similar delivery service, and ask for a questionnaire. For confidentiality reasons, we will not accept questionnaire requests from friends or family members. The letter should not include any details or facts of your case at this point. You should include your name, mailing address, and GDC number. When we receive your letter, we will send you an intake questionnaire to complete.
Due to our limited resources, we are only able to review and consider your responses in the intake questionnaire. We are not able to review or consider additional information or documents at the application stage. If we need additional information or documentation from you, we will ask you for the specific materials we need.
WHAT IS THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT’S CONTACT INFORMATION?
1458 Church Street, Suite F
Decatur, GA 30030
Phone: (404) 373-4433
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY TO THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT?
We read and respond to every written request for help that we receive. Our goal is to determine whether your case meets our acceptance criteria, and whether we can prove your innocence. Given our strict case acceptance criteria, we reject approximately 95% of the initial requests for help that we receive. We also reject cases at later stages of review if we determine that we cannot prove your innocence or do not have the resources to accept your case. Given the complexity of these cases, and our current caseload, it takes at least 4-5 years for us to thoroughly investigate and litigate a case. It often takes longer.
Application Stage – As soon as you write to us for the first time, you are given a unique GIP file number that stays with you permanently. We ask that you refer to that file number in all communication with GIP. During the application stage, we determine whether you meet our case acceptance criteria. When you first write to us, we will send you an intake questionnaire to complete. We will review your answers, and if we have questions, we will send you a clarification letter. If it appears that you meet our acceptance criteria, we send you a 12+ page Application for Assistance and a Release of Information form. Upon receipt of the completed application and release, we gather preliminary information and assess your case to determine whether it should advance to the screening stage. The application stage can take a year or longer to complete.
Screening Stage – During the screening stage we assess how and why you were convicted, and how we might prove your innocence. We conduct the screening stage in phases. First, we collect, review and summarize the official, publicly available facts and law associated with your case. During this phase, we often file open records requests and gather information from prosecutors, police, crime labs, and courts. We compile everything and assess whether we can proceed. In the second phase, we may need to conduct investigations. This process generally takes at least 1.5 years and can be expensive, as it often means reinvestigating a case from scratch.
Representation Stage – During the representation stage, we become your attorneys and represent you in court, generally in a limited capacity. This may be to litigate DNA issues or for other specific reasons. We generally draft and file motions, and appear in court on your behalf. Sometimes we work with volunteer attorneys who represent you or who help us. We may also conduct intensive, complex investigations and work with the media or government officials to advocate on your behalf and educate the public about your case within the broader context of systemic criminal legal reform and innocence-related issues. This stage takes at least 2 years, often longer.
WHAT IF I AM APPLYING FROM ALABAMA?
GIP no longer accepts cases from Alabama. From 2007 to mid-2019, GIP accepted cases from Alabama. However, in mid-2019, GIP made the difficult decision that we were no longer going to accept any new Alabama clients. GIP’s Alabama Fellow works to assist our late-stage Alabama clients whose cases pre-dated GIP’s decision to transition out of Alabama.
WITH WHOM WILL GIP COMMUNICATE ABOUT MY CASE?
We will always communicate with you about your case. We prefer to correspond with you in writing so that we have a record for your file, but we may also accept and/or make approved legal phone calls. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, we cannot at this time accept collect calls from prison, and it is our policy to not knowingly accept calls made from cell phones within prison.
We will give non-confidential status updates to one person about your case if your case is in the representation stage and you give us written permission to speak with that person. You can revoke that permission at any time. Because GIP has many applicants and clients who are seeking help, we encourage you and your family to be patient and not call or write us unless absolutely necessary.