"Wrongful Convictions: When the Law Messes Up"

"Understanding the Shortcomings of Our Criminal Justice System Through Case Studies"

October 24, 2013 - 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm (already occurred)
Converse Hall, Cole Assembly Room

“I therefore believe that our system does not have a word for failed trial, and that is where the American public does not realize that our criminal justice system sometimes makes mistakes.” --Sam Sheppard

The aim of this speaking engagement is to expose instances when the criminal justice system gets the answers wrong and to examine the systemic defects within that system that perpetuate wrongful convictions through the use of real case studies.

There will be three guest speakers for the night.

1. Mr. Yusef Salaam is a member of the Central Park Five, a case infamous in New York. The case involved a female jogger who was brutally attacked in Central Park. Investigation led to suspicion of a group of African American and Latino youth who were also in the park the night of the attack. After hours of interrogation and no access to family, Mr. Salaam verbally admitted to the rape and assault of the jogger. Five and a half years later, Mr. Salaam’s conviction was vacated through DNA evidence and through the confession of the actual rapist. Mr. Salaam has not yet been compensated by the City of New York for the wrongful conviction.

2. Mr. Sage Smith is a former Black Panther from Chicago who was convicted of murder and armed robbery. While in prison, Mr. Smith earned a degree in sociology and a paralegal certificate while working as a law clerk to assist prisoners in their appeals. Mr. Smith also spent nearly a decade working with death row inmates on their appeals. Twenty-seven years after his conviction, Mr. Smith was exonerated. He has yet to receive an executive pardon or a certificate of innocence from the state. Currently, Mr. Smith is the director of client services at the Northwestern Law School Center on Wrongful Convictions.

3. Mr. David Loftis is the managing attorney at The Innocence Project, an organization that is committed to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through the use of DNA testing. Mr. Loftis has nearly two decades of criminal defense experience in both federal and state courts. He will discuss the defects in our system as a greater issue throughout the country and ways to address those defects.

A question-and-answer period will follow the speaking engagement. At the conclusion of the event, there will be a reception at Converse Lobby for guests to personally meet our speakers and engage in greater discussion surrounding this issue.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Servet Bayimli at sbayimli16@amherst.edu.

Contact Info

Servet Bayimli
image of e-mail address@amherst.edu