The Boston College Innocence Program (BCIP) and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) Innocence Program have received a $354,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to support their collaborative mission to investigate and litigate wrongful convictions in Massachusetts. The grant was the largest awarded in the 2020 “Upholding the Rule of Law and Preventing Wrongful Convictions” grant program.
This is the second time the BC and CPCS innocence programs have successfully partnered on a federal grant. In 2015, a DOJ Wrongful Conviction Review program grant supported the launch of the collaboration between the Massachusetts public defender agency and BC Law’s Innocence Clinic to review and litigate cases where proof of wrongful conviction requires intensive factual investigation. Since then, the programs have combined their efforts both to vacate wrongful convictions of individuals and to contribute to systemic reform efforts in Massachusetts, including the establishment of a Forensic Science Oversight Board and improvements to the state’s wrongful conviction compensation statute.
“We are grateful to the Department of Justice for this grant, which will enable our Innocence Program to provide more critical services and support to clients, as well as vital real-world experience for our students,” said BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau. “Our partnership with CPCS has resulted in a number of remarkable, high-profile exonerations and provided students with meaningful experiences in advancing justice. In doing so, the BCIP is helping fulfill the mission of Boston College to provide a voice for the voiceless, and to fight for equal rights for all and for the betterment of society.”
The 2020 grant will support additional staffing at both innocence programs, including a two-year post-graduate fellowship in the BC Innocence Program and an experienced litigator rotation at CPCS. It also replenishes a shared fund for forensic experts and investigative services in post-conviction innocence cases. “This award provides critically needed funding to expand our collaboration with the BC Innocence Program and enable our programs to reach and support litigation on behalf of many more wrongfully convicted men and women across Massachusetts,” said CPCS Innocence Program Director Lisa Kavanaugh.
Professor Sharon Beckman, who directs the BC Innocence Program, agrees. “This grant advances both the educational and public service missions of the Boston College Innocence Program,” she said. “Together with the CPCS Innocence Program, we can now help more innocent people seeking justice while educating a new generation of lawyers to remedy and prevent wrongful convictions.”