Innocence Project at UVA School of Law hosting fundraiser to support clients

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 9:13 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law is raising funds to help Virginians who are wrongly convicted of a crime.

Between the Summer of 2021 and January 2022, nine clients were freed or exonerated. Now, the law school is hosting a fundraiser on April 20 to hear from people who were helped by this organization.

Emerson Stevens was wrongfully convicted of the 1985 abduction and murder of Mary Harding. He was sentenced to 164 years in prison.

“I always believed that I knew I was innocent of the crime and I always believed that one day that I would find someone that would have taken my case and get it overturned and get me out,” Stevens said.

Stevens was helped by the Innocence Project. It started working on his case in 2009, and he was finally released after serving 31 years for a crime he did not commit.

“They didn’t give up,” Stevens said. “I’m home and I just want to finish rebuilding my life.”

In August 2021, then-Governor Ralph Northam granted Stevens an absolute pardon.

“There are myriad problems in our legal system that lead innocent people to become incarcerated,” Serena Premjee, staff attorney with the Virginia Innocence Pro Bono Clinic, said.

Premjee says this upcoming fundraiser will help support the work this organization is doing for innocent people.

“We need funds for lots of things. The investigation we do into cases often requires us to, for example, FOIA voluminous records or get court transcripts or things like that and those things cost money. The funds we get from our organization goes into supporting our work, and helping us continue to fight for the freedom or exoneration of our clients,” Premjee said.

The event begins at 5 p.m. inside the Caplin Pavilion at the UVA School of Law. It’s open to the community.

“I think that’s going to be an opportunity to understand more about what we do to hear from some of our clients. Some of them are telling their stories in public for the very first time. I think it’s going to be a really beautiful and meaningful experience and I really welcome the community to be part of it with us,” Premjee said.

If you would like to donate to the Innocence Project, click here.

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