NU wrongful conviction project focuses on women

November 29, 2012 4:04:55 PM PST
"I spent nine years, five months and 24 days in prison for a crime I did not commit," Joyce Ann Brown said Thursday.

Brown was convicted of murder in the fall of 1980 by an all-white jury in Texas. Challenges to a jailhouse snitch and a witness who misidentified her led to Brown's exoneration.

"When I found out I was convicted, I was just shocked because I thought, 'What in the world just happened?'" Audrey Edmunds, wrongfully convicted, said.

Edmunds was a suburban housewife in Dane County, Wisconsin until her 1996 reckless homicide conviction in the death of a 7-month-old girl she was babysitting.

"I knew what did and did not happen, and at that time I didn't know anything about Shaken Baby Syndrome. I'd never even heard about it," Edmunds said.

New medical analyses of Shaken Baby Syndrome led to a dismissal of charges against Edmunds, but only after she'd done 11 years in prison, most of which was in maximum security.

The cases of Brown, Edmunds and several others highlight a new mission at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.

"It's the first and only project dedicated to studying and correcting wrongful convictions of women," Karen Daniel, part of the Women's Project at the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said.

Most of the attention the last decade or so has been focused on men who've been released from prison based on DNA, false confessions, prosecutorial zeal, and actual innocence. At least 66 documented exonerations of women in the last two decades, and many of those releases have relied heavily on medical evidence, such as in Edmond's case.

Brown and Edmunds believe other women are going through what they did which is why they're lending their voices.

"Every time we talk about our cases, the emotions flow," Brown said.


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