CPCS Innocence Program

Overview

The CPCS Innocence Program is part of the CPCS Private Counsel Division Criminal Appeals Unit, and is located in the CPCS Somerville office. We aim to identify and litigate new trial motions on behalf of indigent Massachusetts state defendants who are actually innocent of the crimes of which they have been convicted. We review and litigate both DNA and non-DNA based innocence claims, with special attention to cases involving eyewitness identification evidence, false confessions, and flawed or invalidated forensic science testimony. Our program is also a member of the Innocence Network.

2016 year in review

2016 was a great year for innocence work in Massachusetts! To read more, click here.

Application Procedure

The CPCS Innocence Program currently accepts applications either directly from indigent Massachusetts state defendants or through their current or former attorneys. Completed questionnaires may be submitted either by mail or e-mail to the Innocence Program office.

Resources & Information

Click here for additional resources on litigating innocence cases, including training documents and information about Chapter 278A litigation.

Click here to follow recent legal developments related to innocence litigation. For more information about the causes of wrongful convictions, click here.

For more information about using or challenging forensics in criminal cases, visit CPCS’s Forensic Services Unit. This specialized unit assists public and private counsel attorneys with the forensic aspects of their appointed cases by providing advice and assistance in using a forensic expert, and supplying training and other resources in the various forensic disciplines.

Partnerships

  • Boston College Law School Innocence Program:
    • Externship: The CPCS Innocence Program has established an externship program with the BC Innocence Program. Law student externs work closely with the Program Director, staff attorney and support specialist to screen cases, provide litigation support on post-conviction innocence claims, work on research projects and policy advocacy, and help draft trial court filings and appellate briefs for active litigation. The program is overseen by BC Law Professor Sharon Beckman, with fall and spring externship placements.
    • Clinic: The CPCS Innocence Program partners with the Boston College Law School Innocence Clinic to investigate and litigate wrongful convictions based primarily on non-DNA sources of evidence. The BC Innocence Clinic is a legal educational program in which students study wrongful convictions and work on innocence cases in a supervised clinical setting.  The CPCS Innocence Program selects cases to assign to the BC Innocence Clinic, and CPCS and the Clinic act as co-counsel in all aspects of the investigation and litigation of these cases.
  • New England Innocence Project (NEIP): Since 2012, the CPCS Innocence Program has partnered with the New England Innocence Project in order to utilize the strengths of both programs to streamline intake and assignment of counsel and coordinate litigation of Massachusetts defendants’ innocence claims. The programs have also collaborated on a number of recent cases, including this case in which a judge granted a new trial on the basis of invalidated arson science and new evidence of a false confession.
  • Chapter 278A Innocence Working Group: Following the 2012 passage of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, which permits defendants asserting their innocence to seek post-conviction forensic or scientific analysis of evidence, the Innocence Program partnered with the New England Innocence Project, the Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorney Offices and the Middlesex Superior Court Clerk’s Office to form a Working Group aimed at improving the inventorying, storage, and tracking of evidence for post-conviction testing. The Working Group is funded by a federal grant award from the National Institute for Justice, Post-Conviction DNA Testing Assistance Program.

Questions? Want to get involved?

If you are interested in finding out more information about our application process, want to request assistance on a case, or want to volunteer/intern with our office, please contact us! Program Personnel & Office Contact Information

 

Disclaimer
The CPCS Innocence Program is supported by Grants No. 2013-DY-BX-K006, 2014-DY-BX-K003 awarded by the National Institute for Justice, and by Grant No. 2015-4098 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.  The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Program, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the SMART Office, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice.