Frequently Asked Questions
Before contacting the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project about your case, please take a look at these frequently asked questions and determine if you think you are an appropriate candidate.
1. What exactly does the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project do?
MAIP is a non-profit organization that provides pro bono investigation and legal assistance to prisoners who have claims of innocence. Our services are free and are reserved for prisoners who cannot afford or are no longer entitled to an attorney. Please note that we agree to represent very few clients and that the screening and investigation before we decide to officially accept a case can take a very long time.
2. What kind of cases does the Innocence Project Take?
We only investigate cases where the prisoner claims to be innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted. We are a very small organization and because of our limited resources, we are unable to accept or represent all claims of innocence, despite their merits. In the past, cases that we have accepted are those in which there appears to be a significant chance that substantial new evidence can be found to prove one’s innocence. Typically, the best type of evidence for this purpose is new physical evidence, such as blood, hair, semen, saliva, or prints, which can be subjected to scientific testing. Other types of new evidence may be evidence incriminating another person, new eyewitness accounts, or recanting witnesses.
Our criteria for selecting cases include the following:
Case Location – We take cases only from prisoners claiming innocence in state and federal courts in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. New Evidence – The prisoner must be making a claim of innocence based on
substantial new evidence that has not been considered previously by a court. The
new evidence does not have to involve DNA.
No Other Counsel – The prisoner must not be currently represented by another
attorney in his of her criminal case or have the right to appointed counsel
in the case.
3. What kind of cases does the Innocence Project NOT take?
We do not accept cases in which a person has not yet been convicted or sentenced. We do not accept cases that are still in the appeals process: direct appeals must have ended or the time for filing a direct appeal must have passed. Simply, we cannot help people who are awaiting trial or are still pursuing their direct appeals. MAIP also is unable to assist prisoners who are currently represented in their criminal case by another attorney or still have access to a public defender. We do not take cases in which a person is only claiming that his or her rights were violated–there must be a possibility of developing evidence that can actually prove innocence. Because of the difficulty of proving innocence in certain types of cases, we usually cannot help in the following situations: (1) where a defendant admits to killing (or assaulting) someone, but claims that it was done in self-defense; (2) where a defendant admits to sexual contact with a person, but claims that the person consented to the contact; (3) where a defendant was convicted as an accessory (or as a party-to-the-crime) and seeks to show that he or she did not play a major role in the crime. We do not help prisoners file civil suits, gather legal research, appeal to the parole board, find the names of other attorneys, or with any other issues unrelated to their actual innocence.
4. What if my case is not from Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia?
Unfortunately, we are unable to assist prisoners from any other jurisdictions. There is, however, a network of similar Innocence Projects across the country. However, not all Innocence Projects have the same criteria for new cases. You should either visit their websites or contact them directly to determine whether your case would meet their qualifications. To find an Innocence Project that most directly serves a particular state, please see list of Innocence Projects by state . Although not every state is served by a specific innocence project (and some projects serve multiple jurisdictions), The Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City considers cases from all states where DNA evidence may be used to prove one’s innocence.
5. What if my case involves DNA testing?
DNA test results can provide strong evidence of one’s innocence. HOWEVER, DNA test results can also provide additional proof of guilt. If DNA tests are performed in your case and they fail to exclude you as the perpetrator of the crime, that evidence may hurt your chances on direct appeal and other post conviction or habeas proceedings. Further, DNA test results that fail to exclude you may have very negative consequences if and when you appear before a parole board. We encourage you to honestly evaluate your case as you complete this questionnaire. Consider whether, by asking for DNA testing, you could be creating additional evidence that may hurt rather then help your chance for exoneration and release.