Q: What exactly does the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project do?
MAIP is a non-profit organization that provides investigative and legal assistance to prisoners who have claims of innocence. We also help enact laws that prevent and make it easier to correct wrongful convictions. Our services are free and are reserved for prisoners who cannot afford or who are no longer entitled to an attorney. Please note that of the many cases we review, we actually agree to represent very few clients. The screening and investigation before we decide to officially accept a case can take a very long time. Learn more.
Q: What cases do we review?
We review the cases of innocent prisoners convicted in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. We look for cases where we can use new evidence, often from DNA, to prove the prisoner is innocent. Typically, the best type of evidence for this purpose is new physical evidence, such as blood, hair, semen, saliva, or prints, which can be subjected to scientific testing. Other types of new evidence may be evidence incriminating another person, new eyewitness accounts, or recanting witnesses. We are a very small organization and because of our limited resources, we are unable to accept or represent all claims of innocence, despite their merits. In the past, the cases that we have accepted involve a significant chance that substantial new evidence can be found to prove the person’s innocence. Ask MAIP to review your case.
Q: What kind of cases does the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project NOT take?
We do not accept cases in which a person has not yet been convicted or sentenced. We also do not accept cases that are still in the appeals process; direct appeals must have ended, or the time for filing a direct appeal must have passed. Simply, we cannot help people who are awaiting trial or who are still pursuing their direct appeals. MAIP also is unable to assist prisoners who are currently represented in their criminal case by another attorney or still have access to an appointed attorney. We do not take cases in which a person is only claiming that his or her rights were violated–there must be a possibility of developing evidence that can actually prove innocence. Because of the difficulty of proving innocence in certain types of cases, we usually cannot help in the following situations: (1) where a defendant admits to killing (or assaulting) someone, but claims that it was done in self-defense; (2) where a defendant admits to sexual contact with a person, but claims that the person consented to the contact; (3) where a defendant was convicted as an accessory (or as a party-to-the-crime) and seeks to show that he or she did not play a major role in the crime. We cannot help prisoners file civil suits, do legal research, seek sentence reductions, find the names of other attorneys, or assist with any other issues unrelated to their actual innocence.
Q: What if my case is not from Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia?
Unfortunately, we are unable to assist prisoners from any other jurisdictions. There is, however, a network of similar innocence organizations across the country (the Innocence Network). Please note that not all innocence organizations have the same criteria for new cases. You should either visit their websites or contact them directly to determine whether your case would meet their qualifications. To find an innocence organization that most directly serves a particular state, please see list of Innocence Network organizations by state. Although not every state is served by a specific innocence organization (and some projects serve multiple jurisdictions), The Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City considers cases from all states where DNA evidence may be used to prove one’s innocence.
Q: What if my case involves DNA testing?
DNA test results can provide strong evidence of one’s innocence. However, DNA test results can also provide additional proof of guilt. If DNA tests are performed in your case and they do not exclude you as the perpetrator of the crime, that evidence may hurt your chances in other proceedings. We encourage you to honestly evaluate your case as you complete our questionnaire. Consider whether, by asking for DNA testing, you could be creating additional evidence that may hurt rather then help your chance for exoneration and release.
Q: What are some causes of wrongful convictions?
Eyewitness misidentification, unreliable or improper forensic science, false confessions, informant testimony, government error/misconduct, poor defense lawyers, and tunnel vision are all common causes of wrongful convictions. For more information, see Causes of Wrongful Conviction.