Rob Warden, the Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, and who recently authored a study on How and Why Illinois Abolished the Death Penalty, is stepping down. He recently spoke about the work of the center and others who are finding and trying to free innocent people imprisoned in America. Warden, over his career, has helped exonerate 60 people, many of which were sentenced to death for a crime they didn’t commit. He noted the exposure of non-DNA innocence cases because of the discovery of DNA:
“Part of it was the fortuitous advent of DNA forensic technology, which suddenly showed that many people had been wrongfully convicted. And that, in turn, gave credence to the non-DNA cases where there was persuasive evidence of wrongful convictions. It just changed the momentum.”
He talked about exposing the flaws in the justice system, “[V]irtually nobody believed that people would confess to crimes they hadn’t committed. We have been extremely important in exposing the phenomenon of false confessions and the psychological phenomena that lead to it. And we’ve exposed the fallacies of evidence that were often used to convict people, including misinterpretations of forensic results and the use of so-called jailhouse snitch testimony. People never really took that seriously until we started showing that they were leading to serious miscarriages of justices.”
Four decades and 60 exonerations later, Rob Warden is stepping down as Executive Director, but there is still progress that needs to be made for innocent defendants and the wrongfully convicted.