the oklahoma innocence project
The Oklahoma Innocence Project is dedicated to identifying and remedying cases of wrongful convictions in Oklahoma. Bringing together Oklahoma City University School of Law students to work with the legal director, OKIP pursues only cases in which there is credible evidence of factual innocence.
Prior to OKIP’s opening in August 2011, there were already numerous cases in Oklahoma where innocent people were exonerated. While imprisoned for a crime they did not commit, Oklahoma exonerees spent from four to twenty years behind bars. Oklahoma ranks in the top 10 in the nation in terms of the number of known wrongful convictions of innocent people.
Our criminal justice system is among the finest in the world, but it is not immune to human error. Studies show a 1.6% error rate nationwide for capital cases and a 3-4% error rate for other cases. No one wants to see the wrong person convicted for a crime they did not commit. We all have an interest in correcting wrongful convictions when they occur, and pursuing the actual guilty party.
Vicki zemp Behenna
Vicki Behenna, a graduate of Oklahoma City University School of Law, spent more than 25 years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. During her tenure, she tried fraud cases and was responsible for the prosecution of complex public corruption cases. Behenna was selected to participate in the Oklahoma City bombing case against Timothy McVeigh as a special attorney to then U.S. Attorney Janet Reno.
In 2015, Behenna was named Executive Director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project. Her tenacious efforts on behalf of the wrongly convicted give her unique insight into the complex issues in this field and the ability to not only manage the clinic, but also the talent and experience to serve as an advocate in court for the clinic’s clients.
OCU SCHOOL OF LAW
Juris Doctor, 1984
Oklahoma Bar Association
Federal Bar Association
American Bar Association
Oklahoma Association of Women Lawyers
William J. Holloway Jr. American Inn of Court
Trial Advocacy Award given by the Association of Government Lawyers in Capitol Litigation
Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Attorney Janet Reno
Integrity Award presented by the Department of Health and Human Services Office
Outstanding Assistant U.S. Attorney recognition by the Western District of Oklahoma in 2012
Distinguished Law Alumna by Oklahoma City University School of Law in 2013
Cheryl Burns is well-versed with the legal system, having spent 15 years as a paralegal in a law firm environment and 15 years as a paralegal in the corporate legal environment. Cheryl brings the strength of her experience, background and desire to assist in making OKIP the gold standard for wrongful conviction clinics around the country.
- OKIP since 2018
ROGERS STATE UNIVERSITY