Barry Scheck: "DNA Evidence and the Saving of Human Lives"
(Posted on October 11, 2011)
Open VISIONS Forum Lecture Series
Jacoby-Lunin Humanitarian Lecture
8 p.m., Monday, November 7, 2011
Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts
The Open VISIONS Forum series at Fairfield University continues its 2011-12 lecture season at 8 p.m. on Monday, November 7, 2011, with Barry Scheck, a member of O.J. Simpson's defense team who has dedicated himself to exposing wrongful convictions as director of the Innocence Project. Mr. Scheck's talk is the annual Jacoby-Lunin Humanitarian Lecture co-sponsored by the Carl & Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield. Moffly Media is the exclusive media partner for Fall 2011 Open VISIONS Forum programming. Single tickets are $45.
While he might be best known for his exacting defense work with such high profile clients as Hedda Nussbaum, O.J. Simpson and Abner Louima, Barry Scheck has a long and impressive history of tirelessly fighting to exonerate the wrongfully accused, most of whom are not household names.
Mr. Scheck and Peter Neufeld co-founded and are co-directors of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where Scheck is also a professor. In 1988, Scheck and Neufeld became involved in studying and litigating issues concerning the use of forensic DNA testing. Their pioneering work not only shaped the course of case law across the country but helped lead to an influential study by the National Academy of Sciences on forensic DNA testing, as well as important state and federal legislation setting standards for the use of DNA testing.
"Barry Scheck's groundbreaking use of DNA evidence has revealed ways in which science can influence public moral discourse and bring about legal reform," said Ellen Umansky, Ph.D., Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of religious studies.
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 273 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before their release. The Innocence Project's full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provided direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases.
Now an independent nonprofit organization, the Innocence Project's mission is to free the staggering number of people wrongly convicted and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their imprisonment. The organization's website highlights case after case - some of which ended in execution.
"It's not just possible to improve forensic science in this country - it's imperative," Scheck wrote in an essay about a Texas case on The Huffington Post. "It's not enough to feel bad that an innocent man was executed; we must use this moment to do better."
Scheck and Neufeld both serve as members of the New York State's Commission on Forensic Science, a body that regulates all crime and forensic DNA laboratories in the state. They have litigated and taught extensively in both the "hard" and behavioral forensic sciences. Their trials frequently redefine and expand the parameters of permissible defenses involving forensic psychiatry and laboratory science. Most of this work is pro bono and of public interest. Their cases often result in enhancing public awareness of systemic problems, improving the criminal justice system and legislative reform.
In 2000, Doubleday published Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted, written by Scheck, Neufeld, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer. This non-fiction book grew out of the cases and stories of the Innocence Project.
Barry Scheck is also first vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and serves on the board of the National Institute of Justice's Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. Prior to joining the Cardozo faculty, where he specializes in criminal law and forensic DNA, he was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of New York. He holds a B.S. from Yale University and a J.D. and M.C.P. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396 (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at fairfield.edu/quick.
Vol. 44, No. 72