Jul 26, 2007 — With new DNA tests proving that Byron Halsey did not commit the brutal sexual assault and murders of two young children in New Jersey for which he was convicted in 1988, the Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law won exoneration in July for its 205th client.
Halsey narrowly escaped the death penalty at the time of his conviction, which was overturned in May.
DNA testing on several key pieces of evidence used to convict Halsey indicated the guilt of another man, Cliff Hall, already in prison for several other sex crimes in New Jersey and who testified against Halsey during his trial.
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, cofounders of the Innocence Project and codirectors of the national organization, said the exonerations “are the greatest data set ever on the causes of wrongful convictions in the United States and yet just the tip of the iceberg,” since so few cases involve evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing.
The Innocence Project launched a month-long national campaign to address and prevent wrongful convictions after it won its 200th exoneration in April.
“The first 200 DNA exonerations have transformed the criminal justice system in this country. These exonerations provide irrefutable scientific proof of the causes of wrongful convictions, and they provide a roadmap for fixing the criminal justice system,” Professor Scheck said.
A primary goal of the national campaign is to support the formation of innocence commissions, state entities that identify causes of wrongful convictions, and develop state reforms that can improve the criminal justice system.
Six states already have such commissions, and seven more states are currently considering legislation to create them.