About the Project


Background

At a national conference on wrongful convictions in Atlanta in April 2010, Nancy Smith, Gloria Killian, Audrey Edmunds, Julie Rea, and Beverly Monroe found themselves in a sea of male exonerees. As the women discussed their experiences, they were struck both by the common elements of their cases and by the stark differences between their wrongful convictions and those of their male counterparts. Out of those discussions came a vision for a Women and Innocence Conference, which they hosted the following November in Troy, Michigan. The conference was a huge success with nearly a hundred attendees, including exonerees, academics, authors, attorneys, investigators, students, and supporters of not-yet-exonerated women prisoners. Among the attendees were CWC attorneys Karen Daniel, Judy Royal, and Stephanie Horten, who had been members of the legal team that won Julie Rea's exoneration.

Karen, Judy, and Stephanie knew from experience—the CWC has represented four women—that certain factors occur with frequency in women's wrongful convictions. For instance, all of the CWC clients were single mothers charged with murdering their children. None of the four had even the slightest apparent motive to kill her child. Yet one of the women had falsely confessed under duress, and the others had made statements that police and prosecutors misconstrued as incriminating. As the CWC lawyers and Julie Rea discussed such commonalities, the need for a wrongful conviction project devoted solely to women became apparent. No such project existed—until the CWC launched its Women's Project on November 29, 2012.

Moving Forward

In addition to the direct representation of selected clients, the CWC Women's Project also plans to monitor potential cases of wrongfully convicted women across the country, facilitate the sharing of information about these cases and educate the public about relevant issues. Through research, discussion and interdisciplinary dialogue, we aim to explore the policies and practices that lead to the wrongful convictions of women and the difficulties they face in reentry into society after the trauma of wrongful conviction. Our website will be a resource with information about women's cases and issues, and we invite other individuals or groups with an interest in exploring these issues to contact us.

Acknowledgments

The CWC gratefully acknowledges the firm of Winston & Strawn LLP, and CWC Advisory Board members Kimball Anderson and Dan K. Webb, whose generosity has enabled the launching of the Women's Project.