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SVC Criminology Program to Present Lecture about Wrongful Convictions

Public Relations
Posted: Friday Nov 4, 2011
Saint Vincent College Criminology, Law and Society Program will present a program about the Innocence Project entitled, Reconciling Truth and Freedom: The Criminal Justice System and the Phenomenon of Wrongful Convictions, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 29 in the Fred M. Rogers Center on the Saint Vincent campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

“Since the 1980s, 273 people who had been convicted by juries of serious and sometimes heinous crimes have been later freed when DNA analysis proved their innocence,” commented Dr. Bruce A. Antkowiak, professor of law at Saint Vincent College and director of the program. “These were innocent people who, for a variety of reasons, were nonetheless convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment or to death. But they were not the only victims of the process that wrongfully convicted them. While each of them were being tried, convicted and imprisoned, the true perpetrator of those awful crimes got away and a little bit of our faith in the integrity of the system was lost.”

The program will focus on the causes of the phenomenon of wrongful convictions in the United States.

John T. Rago, a professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law, chairman of the Pennsylvania Innocence Commission and preeminent expert in the field, will present a review of the legal and scientific issues facing the system in dealing with this phenomenon. He will discuss issues involving eyewitness identification, confessions and other conditions that contribute to wrongful convictions. He will review reforms that can affirm and strengthen the faith the public needs to have in the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Professor Rago teaches criminal law and procedure to first-year law students at Duquesne where he also teaches classes in wrongful convictions and serves as the founding and current director of the Law School’s post conviction DNA project. He is a member of the Innocence Project’s Northeast Public Policy Committee which is part of the Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He is also the founding and former executive director of the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law. Professor Rago has a joint faculty appointment to the Duquesne University Bayer School for Natural and Environmental Sciences where he teaches courses on constitutional criminal procedure, wrongful convictions, Science and Legal Ethics. He served the law school as assistant dean from 1993 to 1996 and as the associate dean for administration from 1996 to 2003. He is admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He holds degrees from the Duquesne University College of Arts and Sciences and the Duquesne University School of Law.

Professor Rago will be joined by Kirk Bloodsworth, the first man in America to be exonerated from Death Row by post conviction DNA analysis. He was nearly executed for a crime he did not commit and later proven to be an innocent man. Mr. Bloodsworth has testified before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and is largely credited for the passage of significant federal legislation bearing his name that funds DNA testing around the nation.

The program will be moderated by Dr. Antkowiak.

Further information is available from Dr. Antkowiak by contacting 724 805-2940 or bruce.antkowiak@stvincent.edu.---Photos: John T. Rago, Kirk Bloodsworth PR2011-811