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THE INNOCENCE PROJECT'S GALA: HONOREES AND EXONEREES
Flom Serves as Benefit Chair for Event Hailing Justic Org, Those It Has Helped to Liberate

Lava Records chief Jason Flom served as Benefit Chairman of last night’s annual “A Celebration of Freedom & Justice” gala in NYC for The Innocence Project, a legal and public policy organization that uses DNA evidence to exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and advocates for reforms to prevent future injustice.  

In addition to delivering remarks, Flom introduced 24 exonerees, many of whom were freed thanks to the organization’s pro bono work.

In the pic at left he greets Amanda Knox, who was wrongfully convicted of the 2007 murder of the British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. In a separate trial, a third suspect Rudy Guede was convicted of Kercher’s murder and is serving a 16-year sentence. Knox, now 25-years-old, was exonerated in March 2015.

In the picture at right, Jason Flom introduces Marvin Anderson, who was only eighteen years old when he was convicted of robbery, sodomy, abduction, and rape. He was released after serving 15 years in prison due to post-conviction DNA testing. (Photos by Julien Tell.) For more stories of the ordeals undergone by exonerees, see the end of this story.

Flom notes that the further one delves into the legal system, the more troubling evidence one finds about innocent people being convicted of violent crimes based on shoddy or even fraudulent evidence.

Last month, the Innocence Project, the Department of Justice and the National Association of Defense Lawyers issued a stunning press release revealing the initial results from a review that showed FBI analysts provided erroneous testimony about hair-fiber evidence in 96% of cases by FBI forensic “experts,” always on behalf of the prosecution. 34 of the suspects convicted on this basis went to death row; nine have been executed and five others died awaiting execution.

Flom’s recent letter to the New York Times calls for consequences: “While the agency should be commended for agreeing to an independent investigation into how this happened and why it was allowed to go on for so long, it’s worth stressing that everyone suffers when the wrong people are convicted of crimes and the real perpetrators remain free to commit other violent crimes, which, we also know from the DNA exonerations, occurs with alarming frequency.”

In addition to inflicting cruel and unusual (and often final) punishment on those who could be innocent, these miscarriages of justice leave the real perpetrators of crimes free to commit more crimes. Flom points out that the Innocence Project’s exoneration process has not only proved exculpatory for the wrongly convicted but also helped uncover the truly guilty.

“I got into this because, like a lot of people, I have a morbid fear of and fascination with prison,” Flom reveals, “and I can’t imagine anything worse than going to prison for something you didn’t do. And then there are those who are executed for something they didn’t do.”

“Of course,” he adds, “the fact that we have a death penalty at all is nuts.” 

 

MORE EXONEREES

Fernando Bermudez was convicted of second degree murder and served 18 years in prison for a shooting that took place outside of a Manhattan night club in 1991. In 2009, Bermudez's conviction was reversed after several witnesses recanted their testimony, saying they were coerced by police into identifying Bermudez. 

Brian Banks was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping as a 17-year-old high school student and athlete. He served five years in prison; the alleged victim ultimately admitted to perjury and false accusations.

Angel Gonzalez was exonerated in March 2015 of a 1994 rape and abduction conviction which put him in prison for more than 20 years of a 55-year sentence. He was exonerated after new DNA testing of evidence excluded Gonzalez as one of two rapists in the case.

 

 

 

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