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Center on Wrongful Convictions to Unveil First Women's Project

The nation’s only project devoted to identifying, rectifying wrongful convictions of women

CHICAGO --- The Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) at Northwestern University School of Law will unveil its new Women’s Project, the first project in the United States devoted to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions of women, at a press conference at 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 29 in the law school’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, 8th floor, 420 E. Superior St. in Chicago.

CWC lawyer Karen Daniel, one of the leaders of the project, will explain the rationale for having a program focusing specifically on women. Daniel, along with several women exonerees, including Audrey Edmunds, Gloria Killian, Joyce Ann Brown, Julie Rea and Tabitha Pollock, will be available afterwards for individual interviews.

The concept for the Women’s Project arose two years ago when Julie Rea, an exonerated CWC client, convened a national conference focusing on the special issues facing innocent women caught in the criminal justice system.

“Women fighting wrongful convictions face special challenges,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. “In many cases, wrongfully convicted women were accused of harming someone close to them, so they were dealing with deep personal loss along with the criminal charges.

“There is typically no DNA evidence in cases with female defendants, making their convictions harder to fight. Sometimes there was not even a crime at all; for instance, a natural or accidental death might be mistaken for shaken baby syndrome or arson. Convictions of innocent women are frequently based on entirely circumstantial evidence.”

In addition, an event sponsored by Winston & Strawn LLP will be held at the law school at 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29 in Lincoln Hall, 375 E. Chicago Ave. CWC client Julie Rea and other exonerated women will discuss their experiences, and CWC lawyers Karen Daniel and Judy Royal will discuss the program as well. A reception will follow.

The CWC will also present the 2012 Jane Beber Award to Amy Rabinowitz Kaplan, a 1997 Northwestern Law graduate who became interested in the CWC’s work when she learned of Julie Rea’s case.

To date, the CWC has handled four cases involving women, which have made a significant impact in the law. “The results of further study could help inform lawyers who represent women at trial as well as other innocence projects that represent women in post-conviction proceedings,” Warden said.

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