WHAT KINDS OF CASES DOES THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT ACCEPT?
GIP investigates post-conviction criminal cases where modern DNA testing was not available at the time of trial. If there is a compelling innocence claim and evidence remains available for DNA testing, GIP litigates to test that DNA – and prove actual innocence. We have strict acceptance criteria, all of which must be met before we can take a case:
- The alleged crime must have happened in Georgia or Alabama;
- All direct appeals must be completed and no other attorney can be working on your criminal case right now;
- There must be at least three years left on your prison sentence;
- There must be some evidence that has DNA or other biological material that can be tested to prove your innocence;
- The perpetrator’s identity must have been a key issue in your case;
We cannot accept your case if you agree that you played any role in the crime, even a minor role, or if you assert any of the following legal defenses:
- You feel you should be Not Guilty because of self-defense, accident, severe intoxication, or insanity;
- You were convicted of sexual assault for a sexual encounter that you say was consensual;
- You feel you should have been convicted of a different crime or should have a shorter sentence
WHAT IS THE COST TO ME?
GIP provides legal services to clients 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?
We recently have changed our intake process, so please read this carefully. You must write to us and ask for a questionnaire. We will only screen requests from the person convicted of the crime, not from friends or family members. You should not include any details or facts of your case at this point. You should include your name, mailing address, and GDC or AIS 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 that you return to us. We are not able to review or consider additional information or documents at this time. If we need additional information or documentation from you we will request it in the future.
WHAT IS THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT’S CONTACT INFORMATION?
2645 North Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30033
Phone: (404) 373-4433
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY TO THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT?
We read and respond to every written request that we receive. Our goal during the preliminary stage of review 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 90% of the initial requests for help that we receive. We also reject cases at later stage of review if we determine that we cannot prove your innocence. Given the complexity of these cases, and our current backlog, it takes at least 3-4 years for us to thoroughly investigate and litigate a case. It often takes longer.
Preliminary 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 preliminary stage, we determine whether you meet our case acceptance criteria. When you first write to us we send you an intake questionnaire to complete. We will review your answers, and if we have questions, we 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 that completed application and release, we decide whether we can advance your case forward to the investigation stage. The preliminary stage can take 1 year to complete.
Investigation Stage – During the investigation stage we try to determine whether we could prove that you are innocent. We do that by gathering information in phases and conducting a review of your case at each phase. First, we review your appellate documents and the official facts of your case. Then we try to locate any evidence that we could test. To find that evidence, we often need to contact prosecutors, police, crime labs, and courts, and file multiple open records requests. If we haven’t done so already, we then obtain and review your trial transcripts, and conduct any necessary investigations to confirm our ability to prove your innocence. This process takes a minimum of 1.5 years and can be expensive, as it often means reinvestigating a case from scratch.
Litigation Stage – During the litigation stage, we represent you in a limited capacity. This may be to litigate DNA issues or for other specific reasons. We potentially 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 justice problems and innocence-related issues. This stage often takes at least 1.5 years.
WHAT IF I AM APPLYING FROM ALABAMA?
Alabama cases are difficult for many reasons. Post-conviction records are exceptionally hard to obtain in Alabama, and there is no specific post-conviction DNA testing statute, except in capital cases. New evidence often must be brought before a court within six months of discovery, which can be extremely difficult, and at times, impossible. Private companies control public court records in Alabama and charges exorbitant access fees, making the records virtually inaccessible to non-profits on tight budgets. Worse, sentences are very long in Alabama. Because Alabama has no local innocence project, GIP created an Alabama Initiative and started accepting cases from Alabama in 2007. GIP processes Alabama cases through the first stages with the goal of transferring the cases to pro bono Alabama criminal defense attorneys. Currently GIP is reviewing its Alabama Initiative by working with Alabama experts to address the concerns and needs of Alabama’s imprisoned innocent.
WITH WHOM WILL GIP COMMUNICATE ABOUT MY CASE?
We will always talk with you about your case. We prefer to communicate with you in writing so that we have a record for your file, but 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 provide non-confidential status updates to one person about your case if your case is in the litigation stage and you give us permission in writing to speak with that person. You can revoke that permission at any time. Because GIP has many clients who are seeking help, we encourage you and your family to be patient and not call or write us unless absolutely necessary.