Wrongful Conviction Project

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Martin Luther King Jr.


OPD's Wrongful Conviction Project focuses primarily on wrongful conviction claims that do not involve DNA evidence. These claims include, but are not limited to, allegations of flawed science, witness misidentification, and false confessions. The Project is designed to remove wrongfully convicted persons from Ohio prisons, and to promote policy changes that will prevent wrongful convictions in the future. The Project works to educate others on the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions, also serving as a resource for those working in the field.

The Project evaluates claims we receive from people who meet the following criteria: the person was convicted and is incarcerated in Ohio; the person claims factual innocence of the convictions; the person did not contribute in any way to the commission of the offense; and the person has exhausted their timely appellate process. People referred to the Project will be asked to complete a questionnaire. If they meet the Project’s criteria, their case will be referred to a law student or other volunteer to consider the merits of their claim. Please note that the evaluation process is a lengthy one; it may take a year or longer to begin assessing a given case.

OPD's Wrongful Conviction Project is a member of the Innocence Network, which is made up of approximately 70 organizations worldwide that work independently and collaboratively to free the innocent.

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Our Mission

To exonerate the wrongfully convicted in Ohio, and to reform the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.
The Wrongful Conviction Project:
  • Screens applications and conducts investigations to evaluate innocence claims by analyzing the reliability of the evidence presented at trial.
  • Obtains expert analysis of forensic evidence with particular focus on changes in acceptable scientific reliability.
  • Provides quality representation to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted, by presenting newly discovered evidence through Motions for New Trial or similar legal procedures, resulting in their exoneration.

Our History

The Wrongful Conviction Project (WCP) was created in 2009 to address claims of innocence where biological evidence (DNA) was not available. Under the direction of Assistant State Public Defender Kelly Culshaw, the Project was staffed with law students to review and evaluate innocence claims from those incarcerated in Ohio. Prior to her departure in 2010, Kelly arranged for a Fellowship program through the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where one graduating lawyer would be hired to work on the Project for one year. Leon Sinoff was the first WCP Fellow, followed by current WCP attorney Joanna Sanchez. The Fellowship was made possible through the generosity of Moritz College of Law alum Erin Moriarty (see Defender of Justice below).
The Project grew significantly over the following years, as funding was obtained through a Department of Justice grant that enabled the hiring of a full-time investigator. The student staff was diversified to eventually include not only Capital University and Ohio State University law students but also undergraduate students from various disciplines. The WCP continued an externship agreement with Capital University Law School, where students earn class credits while working on the Project for a semester. In addition, the Project has worked with the Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State and the Columbus Program at Kent State University to bring in undergraduate student interns.
The WCP is a member of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of organizations around the world dedicated to providing free legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove their innocence of crimes for which they were convicted.

2013 Defender of Justice Award

Erin F. Moriarty, Esq., Journalist
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Columbus, Erin graduated from Ohio State University, Phi Beta Kappa, with a degree in behavioral sciences, and received a law degree from Ohio State’s College of Law in 1977. She is licensed to practice law in Ohio and Maryland. Erin’s work as a journalist for CBS News is well known, including her dedication to issues of justice, including wrongful convictions. This commitment was on display through her brilliant investigative reporting on the wrongful conviction of Ryan Ferguson in Columbia, Missouri. Her work brought national attention to the case and was instrumental in Ryan’s ultimate exoneration.
Erin brought her dedication to issues of injustice home by generously donating through the Moritz College of Law to help fund the Wrongful Conviction Project’s Fellowship Program that began in 2010. Erin’s generosity did not stop there. She has continued to support our Project by continuing to fund WCP student intern positions every year. Erin regularly communicates with the Project expressing her support and appreciation for our work.
The Ohio Public Defender, in recognition of her support for OPD's Wrongful Conviction Project, help to those who defend the poor, and dedication to improving justice by protecting, defending, and strengthening the rights of all, hereby recognizes Erin F. Moriarty as a Defender of Justice.

  • Contact the Project

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    Mail To:

    Office of the Ohio Public Defender
    Attn: Project Director, Joe Bodenhamer
    250 East Broad Street, Suite 1400
    Columbus, Ohio 43215