OCPD: Connecticut Innocence Project

State of Connecticut
Division of Public Defender Services
The Connecticut Innocence Project /
Post Conviction Unit

2275 Silas Deane Highway
Rocky Hill, Connecticut 06067
(860) 258-4940

Learn more about the Connecticut Innocence Project

Obtain a Connecticut Innocence Project Request for Assistance Form

Mission Statement

The Connecticut Innocence Project is an office of the State of Connecticut Public Defender Services. The Connecticut Innocence Project/Post Conviction Unit is a member of the Innocence Project Network, a coalition of Innocence Projects in the United States and abroad. The mission of the Connecticut Innocence Project / Post Conviction Unit is to isolate cases of incarcerated individuals who have been convicted of crimes in Connecticut for which they are innocent, and seek their exoneration.


The Connecticut Innocence Project was formed in the summer of 2005 by former Chief Public Defender Gerry Smyth. Brian Carlow and Karen Goodrow were asked to Co-Chair the Project, as Brian had an interest in DNA, and Karen had an interest in wrongful convictions. At the time that the Connecticut Innocence Project began, Brian and Karen were working full-time in other positions within the Public Defender Division, and volunteered their spare time towards innocence cases. Other volunteers within the Division, as well as in private practice, also volunteered their time to help get the Project off the ground. In February, 2006, the Hartford law office of McCarter & English provided the Connecticut Innocence Project with pro bono office space, which is where the Project remains to this day. McCarter & English attorneys, Tim Fisher, Charlie Ray and others, have been instrumental in providing pro bono assistance to the Project and its clients.

In 2006, the Connecticut Innocence Project took on the case of James Calvin Tillman, who was wrongfully convicted after trial in 1989 of various criminal offenses. After serving eighteen and one-half years in prison for crimes which he did not commit, Mr. Tillman was released from prison in June, 2006 when new DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. In July, 2006, Mr. Tillman was exonerated when all of the charges against him were dismissed. In May, 2007, Mr. Tillman was awarded $5 million by the State of CT as compensation for his wrongful conviction and incarceration.

In the summer of 2007, the Legislature of the State of CT granted the Public Defender's Office full funding for four positions for the Connecticut Innocence Project. Karen Goodrow was appointed as Director of the Connecticut Innocence Project, and Joan O'Rourke, who had been assisting from the Project's inception, was hired as the paralegal/assistant. Mike Lefebvre, a seasoned trial attorney and former police officer, joined the Connecticut Innocence Project as its second attorney. Pete Palmer brings to the Project his years of experience as an investigator, most recently investigating complex capital cases.

The Connecticut Innocence Project has been able to process and isolate more quickly cases of innocence due directly to its State funding. In 2009 alone, the Connecticut Innocence Project, with the cooperation of other stake-holders in the criminal justice system, was able to secure the freedom of two innocent individuals, each of whom had served lengthy periods of incarceration before new evidence proved their innocence. Miguel Roman served over twenty years in prison for a murder which he did not commit. He was released from prison in December, 2008 when post-conviction DNA testing established his innocence. Mr. Roman was exonerated in April, 2009 when the charges against him were dismissed. Mr. Kenneth Ireland served twenty-one years in prison for a rape and murder which he did not commit. He was released from prison in August, 2009. Again, post-conviction DNA testing proved that Mr. Ireland was innocent of the charges for which he had been convicted. Mr. Ireland was exonerated in August, 2009 when all of the charges against him were dismissed.

To date, the Connecticut Innocence Project has received over two hundred requests from inmates seeking assistance. Presently, the Project is involved in reviewing over one hundred cases in various levels of the review process. The Connecticut Innocence Project does not accept a case until it has been reviewed and a determination has been made that: 1. some form of new evidence exists (DNA or non-DNA), and 2. the new evidence can reasonably assist in proving innocence.

Content Last Modified on 10/7/2013 12:21:21 PM