In this day and age it doesn’t seem likely that people would be imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. But it happens. The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization is dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals.
Collin College’s Distinguished Speaker Series will host a panel featuring Innocence Project policy director Cory Session and two exonerees from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Spring Creek Campus Living Legends Conference Center, 2800 E. Spring Creek Parkway, in Plano.
Free and open to the public, the panel discussion will reveal the details of exonerees like panel member Billy James Smith, who, according to Collin College professor of psychology Joshua Arduengo, was convicted of aggravated assault in 1987 by false eye witness testimony.
“A woman was raped in a laundry room and described the clothing her assailant wore to her boyfriend, who helped manage the apartment building from which the rapist was suspected to have emerged. The boyfriend remembered seeing Smith, a resident of the apartment complex, wearing clothing that matched the girlfriend’s account. The girlfriend saw Smith step out onto a balcony and identified him as the man who raped her. Smith had an alibi. His sister testified, but he was given a life sentence and was imprisoned for 19 years before the Innocence Project helped with his exoneration in 2006,” Arduengo said.
“Dallas County leads the nation in DNA exonerations. Eyewitness misidentification and testimony has played a role in as much as 75 percent of convictions overturned by DNA evidence. The two exonerees on the panel served roughly 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit,” Arduengo added.
For information about the Distinguished Speaker Series, call 972-881-5927, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.collin.edu/academics/csce/distinguishedspeakerseries.html.
Collin College serves nearly 53,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin College is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.
About the author: Marisela Cadena-Smith is Director of Marketing and Communications at Collin College.