Resource: "A House Divided": A Response to Professor Abbe Smith's In Praise Of The Guilty Project: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Growing Anxiety About Innocence Projects

By: W. Tucker Carrington

January 1, 2011

U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change

Professor Smith begins her article by immediately conceding that there is now little debate about the impact of innocence work. She readily acknowledges the power of DNA evidence to free the wrongly convicted and, in the process, to raise serious questions about certain fundamental conceptions in our criminal justice system. Almost all of these developments stem from the work of innocence projects or by lawyers who were working in the innocence movement tradition. She notes that unlike virtually any other development in the field of criminal justice, the issue of innocent persons being convicted, perhaps even executed, for crimes that they did not commit contains, according to Professor Lawrence C. Marshall, an uncontested sense of righteous indignation that transcends virtually any partisan divide about issues of race or class that have historically revealed deep divisions in our national conversations. Popular culture has not only been exposed to, but has also been compelled by the development. John Grisham recognized this phenomenon and wrote his first nonfiction book, The Innocent Man, about it. It immediately struck a popular nerve and became, like his fictionalized courtroom dramas, a best-seller.