Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.
This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:
In September, Frances Choy was exonerated of arson and first-degree murder stemming from a house fire that killed Choy’s parents. BCIP led the exoneration effort based on new evidence, specifically of a prior confession and contradicting scientific evidence. BCIP also shed light on prosecutorial and police misconduct surrounding Choy’s conviction. Choy spent 17 years in prison.
Later that same month, BCIP Client Ronnie Qualls became the 14th person in Massachusetts to be exonerated based on DNA evidence since 1989 after his mother contacted the clinic in 2017. Over three years of working with Qualls, BCIP argued for and eventually gained additional DNA testing, which showed the victim’s blood on the sweatshirt of the original suspect. Qualls had spent 27 years in prison.
One month later, BCIP led the release of client Thomas Rosa Jr., who had wrongfully spent 34 years in prison. Looking again to DNA evidence, BCIP found a discrepancy that prompted further investigation by a DNA expert and ultimately led to Rosa’s freedom.
As a student currently in a BC Law clinic myself, it is both inspiring and fascinating to learn about the work of BCIP and the success they have brought their clients. It is easy to see the unwavering energy and passion students have for securing favorable outcomes for their clients. It also brings a sense of duty and motivation to tangibly see the change that law students can make in the legal field. Breathing new life into decades-old investigations and uncovering crucial information that makes all the difference. These students illustrate a potential for us to literally hit the ground running in representing and advocating for others.
To learn more about the Boston College Innocence Program, click on the links below or visit the clinic’s homepage here.
Devon Sanders is a second-year student and VP of the Impact Blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.