A nonprofit organization working with the School of Law raised about $20,000 in a Thanksgiving fundraiser.
The Oklahoma Innocence Project is one chapter of the greater Innocence Project, a worldwide affiliation of 56 state organizations and 13 international organizations. The goal of the nonprofit is to legally represent convicts who claim actual innocence free of charge.
“The whole mission of the law school is to right wrongful convictions,” said Vicki Behenna, executive director of the program. “That’s our goal, that’s our mission, that’s what we do everyday.”
OKIP officials used the Giving Tuesday movement, an international trend that dedicates the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to donating to organizations, to gather funds for their organization. Their goal was $30,000, but donations totaled to about $20,000. Donations came from across the city from a variety of donors, including students, alumni and those interested in innocence work.
OKIP is funded exclusively through donations. Since its founding in 2011, OKIP has received more than 1,500 requests for legal assistance. Of these, about 460 became official clients within the clinic, and about five to six of these cases are currently open and under investigation. The money raised through Giving Tuesday will help provide investigative resources needed to work these cases, such as trial transcripts and the hiring of private investigators.
Jordan Tarter, English junior and pre-law student, said false verdicts shouldn’t happen in a system where due process is being respected.
“I feel like sometimes we come to conclusions too quickly just because we’re seeking a solution,” Tarter said. “If everyone is working ethically, nothing should go wrong. There should be ample amount of evidence, there should be ample amount of accounts on it. Everyone should be innocent until proven guilty.”