LOUISIANA (KLFY) – Former convicted criminals are raising awareness of wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system and hoping they can change laws and free people imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit.
This week, Acadiana hosted the 3rd annual Stand for Justice fundraiser benefiting the Innocent Project of New Orleansan organization that helped free and exonerate more than three dozen people.
Check out the Stand for Justice fundraiser below:
“False conviction can happen to anyone, so don’t wait for it to happen in your backyard before getting involved,” Robert Jones said.
Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office makes bullying presentation at Iberia Middle School
Jones served 23 years in prison on wrongful convictions, including armed robbery, aggravated kidnapping, rape and murder.
Another man, Raymond Flanks, was serving 39 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
“It all started in one night, one miserable night,” Flanks recalled as he addressed the crowd.
Jerome Morgan has a similar story.
“I was convicted of a murder I did not commit when I was 17 years old. I was sentenced to life in prison without parole, probation or suspension. It took me 20 years to find my freedom and I also re-prosecuted for two years,” Morgan told News 10.
All three men were freed with the help of the Innocence Project of New Orleans (IPNO) and now all three make it their life’s work to fight alongside IPNO.
“It was hell in Angola prison, which is very similar to a plantation. I’ve made a lot of progress since coming home with the support of IPNO and the few friends and family who stood by me through this incident. I’m now employed at a high school as the principal of school, culture and environment,” Morgan added.
Louisiana ranked the 7th highest in the country for electric bills; 1. in power consumption
Their stories began to influence others, like Frank Neuner, former chair of the Louisiana Public Defender Board.
“You wonder how you can spend all these years in prison and realize there are other people in prison who aren’t out right now,” Neuner said.
The stories of men like Robert, Raymond, and Jerome inspired Neuner to take part in the Innocence Project and work with them to improve the justice system. He now works as CEO for IPNO.
“Life has been ruined by unfair convictions and the criminal justice system is not perfect. We think it’s the best thing in the world, but it makes mistakes. IPNO helps correct these mistakes and give people their lives back,” he added.
Since 2001, the Innocence Project of New Orleans has freed or exonerated 41 innocent people who had served a combined total of over 960 years in prison in Louisiana and Mississippi.