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 DNA evidence remains available for testing, GIP litigates to test that DNA – and prove actual innocence. We have strict case acceptance criteria, all of which must be met before we can take a case:
- Your identity must be in question – meaning there must be a way to challenge someone’s identification of you;
- All direct appeals must be completed and no other attorney can be working on your criminal case right now;
- The alleged crime must have happened in Georgia or Alabama;
- You must have 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;
- You must claim to be innocent of all involvement in the crime. We cannot accept your case if:
- You believe you are not guilty because of accident, self-defense or a mental defense;
- You were convicted of a sexual assault for a sexual encounter that you say was consensual;
- You agree that you played any role in the crime, even a minor role; or
- You believe 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 applicants may be asked to contribute to expenses related to investigation or testing.
HOW DO I APPLY TO THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT?
You must submit your request to us in writing via U.S. Mail. We will only screen requests from the person convicted of the crime, not from friends or family members. Your letter should be clear and readable. Please include your name, contact information, and GDC or AIS number. Also include:
- A description of the crime you of which you were convicted. Include the key facts according to you and according to the state.
- A description of any physical evidence that still exists and might contain untested biological evidence. This might be sperm, semen, a rape kit, saliva, skin cells, blood or other biological material.
WHAT IS THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT’S CONTACT INFORMATION?
Georgia Innocence Project
2645 North Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30033
Phone: (404) 373-4433
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I APPLY TO THE GEORGIA INNOCENCE PROJECT?
We read every written request that we receive and try to acknowledge receipt within one week. Our goal during all review stages 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 any 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 three 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 will determine whether you meet our case acceptance criteria. If we have questions, we will send you a clarification letter and/or questionnaire. If it appears you meet our acceptance criteria, we will send you a 12+ page Application for Assistance and a Release of Information form. Upon receipt of that completed application and release, we will decide whether we can begin to screen your case for potential acceptance.
Screening Stage – During the screening stage, we try to determine whether we could prove that you are innocent. We do that by gathering information in stages and conducting reviews of your case at each stage. 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 review your trial transcripts and police reports, 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 re- investigating a case from scratch.
Active Stage – During the active 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 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. Alacourt.com controls 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 we have a record for your file, but we will 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 active stage and you give us permission in writing to speak with that one named person. That permission can be revoked at any time. Because GIP has many clients who are seeking help, we encourage you and your family to be patient and try not to call or write us unless absolutely necessary.