Illinois Innocence Project recognizes Wrongful Conviction Day on the quad

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Photographs courtesy of Mounika Bayavarapu

The Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) recognized International Wrongful Conviction Day Oct. 2 by filling the UIS quad with black and blue flags to make a statement on the consequences of wrongful conviction.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., students walked by 2,098 flags on their way to class, each one representing a person who was wrongfully convicted but later exonerated in the US since 1989.

Out of the thousands of flags, 199 of them were blue to highlight how many people were wrongfully convicted in Illinois.

“You can say this big number of how many people were wrongfully convicted, but it’s more powerful when you can see it,” said Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, a staff attorney with the IIP. “You can see that these are people’s lives, and they are in prison for something they didn’t do.”

The Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted began the global day of recognition four years ago and is meant to bring awareness and information to the community on the causes, and consequences, and costs that come with being wrongly convicted.

A UIS student came up with the idea to have a flag-based visual display last year, and the IIP plans to fill the quad with flags every Oct. 2 to bring attention to their cause.

“It’s this idea of visualizing actual people,” said Myerscough-Mueller, who also teaches a class on wrongful conviction on campus. “It also makes people think about how many more are still serving time for something they didn’t do.”

The IIP has helped exonerate 10 people with the aid of its eight undergraduate student interns. UIS is the only university in the country with an undergraduate-based innocence project where students can help in exoneration cases. One of their most recent cases dealt with Charles Palmer, a man who had finally been exonerated in 2016 after more than 18 years behind bars.

IIP has been honored by the NAACP for working diligently to help grant freedom to wrongfully convicted men and women in Illinois. If you are interested on interning, volunteering, or learning more about the Illinois Innocence Project visit their website or [email protected]