Trials and Conviction
Housed in the Beasley School of Law, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project aims to free wrongfully convicted inmates.
Story by Larry Atkins, LAW '86
Kenneth Granger was convicted of murder in 1982. If it had not been for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, he would still be in prison.
Granger was convicted in the murder of a bar cook in North Philadelphia and sentenced to life without parole. At his trial, three eyewitnesses, including an off-duty police officer, testified against Granger. But in 2008, Granger’s attorneys were able to convince a judge to allow them access to the prosecution’s original case file, which revealed that the off-duty officer had failed to identify Granger in a photo spread and that a bartender had identified someone other than Granger in an array of photos. Those facts were not disclosed to Granger’s attorney in 1982.
Through the efforts of his attorneys—including David Rudovsky of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which is housed in the Beasley School of Law—Granger was released from the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Graterford in July 2010.
“My initial feelings upon my release were surreal; I felt as if I had been reborn,” Granger says. “People should never give up when fighting for truth and justice.”
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is a member of the Innocence Network, a group of independent organizations that assist inmates trying to prove their wrongful conviction whether or not the cases involve evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing. The Innocence Network was formed several years ago by the Innocence Project in New York. Since then, it has expanded to include 57 programs in the U.S. and another 10 internationally.
Located in Conwell Hall on Main Campus and led by Temple alumni, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project works to identify, exonerate and release Pennsylvania inmates who have been wrongly imprisoned. The project supports criminal justice reform, aiming to improve the current system through education and advocacy. It also collaborates with law enforcement agencies and courts to address systemic causes of the problem. The Innocence Project staff and its interns from law schools in the Philadelphia region review petitions submitted by Pennsylvania inmates who claim they are mistakenly serving time.
Richard Glazer, LAW ’69, is executive director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which he launched in 2009 with David Richman and David Rudovsky. Glazer was a founder of the law firm Cozen O’Connor and a senior advisor to the managing director of the city of Philadelphia. Presently, he serves as chair of the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.
In fall 2007, Glazer was asked to serve on a working group to help establish an Innocence Project organization in Pennsylvania. “The project was long overdue,” Glazer says. “Pennsylvania is among the states where mistakes are not easily rectified after conviction. It’s a big challenge. I felt it was important to be involved.”
Marissa Boyers Bluestine, LAW ’95, joined the Pennsylvania organization as its first legal director in 2009. She previously was a litigation associate with Duane Morris LLP and an assistant defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia. While a law student, she served as managing editor of Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review.
The Innocence Project was a natural fit for Bluestine. “As a former assistant defender, I was familiar with the issues of wrongful conviction and false identification, so naturally, I was interested in working for the Innocence Project.”
Glazer says that the project’s impact has been profound. Due to increased public awareness, many states have enacted innocence commissions that study wrongful convictions,” he explains. “Pennsylvania State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf formed a commission four years ago and their report is due soon. The work of other states’ commissions has led to reforms to reduce wrongful convictions.”
Kenneth Granger, freed with the help of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, speaks at the second anniversary party for the organization. Photo courtesy Ryan Brandenberg.
Richard Glazer, LAW '69, and Marissa Boyers Bluestine, LAW '95, lead the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, housed in the Beasley School of Law. Photo courtesy Joseph V. Labolito.
Kenneth Granger’s case is a powerful example of the criminal justice system’s flaws, most notably, eyewitness misidentification.
Glazer says that Granger’s case displays the need for reforms. “The Granger case shows that mistakes are made regularly,” he explains. “Eyewitness identification issues have affected convictions and are contributing factors in 75 percent of those overturned by DNA evidence. There need to be lineup procedures that reduce the likelihood of wrongful identification;recorded police interrogations; more careful consideration and skepticism of the use of jail informants; scrutiny of forensic evidence that reflects scientific advances; preservation of crime scenes; access to post-conviction DNA; and the elimination of lawenforcement tunnel vision, which can result in a tendency to ignore exculpatory evidence.”
Glazer admires Granger’s positive outlook despite what he has endured. “It’s remarkable that he expresses little animus about his lack of justice. He’s more interested in looking toward the future.”
Granger echoes the importance of having an organization like the Innocence Project fighting for rights of the wrongfully imprisoned. “The Innocence Project is an organization whose time was long overdue, and I’m grateful for the assistance they provided to help exonerate me,” he says. “It is vitally important to have groups that help the helpless and shine light on the dark side of the criminal justice system.”
Training the Next Generation
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project also provides educational opportunities to students. It gives interns from several local universities and in many disciplines—including law, journalism, criminal justice and forensic science—the opportunity to screen and investigate claims of innocence under the supervision of its legal director and volunteer lawyers.
In addition to the interns, law school students earn course credit by working in the organization’s office, as they do coursework and clinical activity with their own caseloads.
“Not all the students will become criminal attorneys, but it’s valuable that they will gain appreciation of the system’s flaws,” Glazer says. “Without this exposure, they wouldn’t recognize how many wrongful convictions occur and that the system needs reform.”
“Our interns love working for us,” Bluestine says. “They work on real cases of injustice and they’re part of the solution. They work to improve the situation of one individual, as well as the criminal justice system as a whole. The students meet clients, develop cases and interview witnesses. It’s an incredible real-life experience that’s not covered in law school.”
William Haydt, a third-year Temple Law student and 2011 Innocence Project summer intern, says, “I chose to work for the project because I wanted to broaden my experience in criminal law while also being part of a great cause.
This internship has definitely gotten me thinking about a possible career in defense work. Originally, I was more interested in prosecution, but the Innocence Project demonstrates how important a career as a criminal defense attorney can be.”
Both Glazer and Bluestine credit Law School Dean JoAnne Epps for the project’s successful launch.
“Without the help of the Beasley School of Law and Dean Epps, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground,” Glazer says. “In the past, attempts to create the project stalled because no one was willing to host it until Temple stepped up. Now, we have the physical backdrop and the logistics. We’re grateful for Temple’s enormous assistance.”
“The Pennsylvania Innocence Project wouldn’t exist without Temple,” Bluestine agrees. “In addition to physical space, we have a symbiotic connection with the entire university. Law professors and interns participate in our work, but we also consult with professors from the departments of Criminal Justice, Psychology and Statistics, and hire interns from the same departments.”
In describing the professional gratification she gains from her work, Bluestine cites the human element. “To be someone’s hope is an awesome responsibility. You feel a heavy burden and know how critical it is. To be someone’s light, to be that important to someone, to unlock the door — every attorney dreams of doing that.
I get to do it every day. When I read letters from those whose cases we are investigating or litigating, I know the impact we’re having.”
Larry Atkins, LAW ’86, is an adjunct professor of journalism in the School of Communications and Theater at Temple.
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