Innocence Project Group Holds Fundraiser to Help Wrongfully Convicted

After Project’s String of Successes, Donor Offers Matching Funds
Jason Flom, Dean Strang, Jarrett Adams and Darnell Phillips

Jason Flom, a founding member of the national Innocence Project; "Making a Murderer" attorney Dean Strang ’85, attorney Jarrett Adams and Darnell Phillips, who was just released from prison with help from the Innocence Project. Photos by Julia Davis

October 4, 2018

A Tuesday fundraiser for the Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law included stories of wrongful conviction and a $50,000 matching-fund challenge to prospective donors.

“The ultimate goal is to raise enough money to hire a fellow to assist myself and Legal Director Jennifer Givens in supervising cases,” said Deirdre Enright ’92, the project’s director of investigation, following the event. “That way, the clinic can include more students — there’s a waitlist — and more potential clients. There’s currently a backlog of more than 1,000 cases.”

Some of the project’s now-released clients were on hand for the fundraiser and shared their stories with the audience. They included Darnell Phillips, Messiah Johnson, Emerson Stevens and Gary Bush.

The Innocence Project worked on several of the cases for six to nine years.

Others who were freed after wrongful convictions and were in attendance included Beverly Monroe, David Boyce and Edgar Coker.

Speaking on a panel at the event about where the justice system can go wrong were attorney Dean Strang ’85, who was featured on “Making a Murderer,” a Netflix true-crime documentary; Jarrett Adams, a lawyer who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at age 17; and Jason Flom, a founding board member of the national Innocence Project who hosts the podcast “Wrongful Conviction.”

Flom, who was also founder and CEO of Lava Records, offered a challenge — he would match up to $50,000 raised for the pro bono clinic.

Those who wish to donate still can. Gifts can be made online. Donors may also text “VIRGINIA” to 41444. Checks can be sent to: UVA Law School Foundation, 580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903-1738.

Donors should designate funds “for the Innocence Project.”

The pro bono clinic works alongside the for-credit Innocence Project Clinic on behalf of wrongfully convicted persons in Virginia. It allows student volunteers to gain experience investigating cases, writing briefs, and speaking with and visiting clients, witnesses and other key people during investigations.

  • Enright, Givens and panel

    Freed clients who joined the panel for comments included Darnell Phillips, Messiah Johnson and Gary Bush. Professor Deirdre Enright, director of investigation for the Innocence Project at UVA Law, addresses the audience as Professor Jennifer Givens, the legal director, looks on.

  • Dean Risa Goluboff

    Dean Risa Goluboff introduces the panelists.

  • Freed client Emerson Stevens shakes hands with attorney Dean Strang ’85.

    Freed client Emerson Stevens shakes hands with attorney Dean Strang ’85.

  • Dean Strang ’85 makes a point about the criminal justice system.

  • Jarrett Adams

    Jarrett Adams, who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at age 17, tells his story.

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