This fall semester, the clinic had four students enroll in the Innocence Clinic class. These students work on real-life cases for the Innocence Project. One case they are currently working on is Michelle Berry's.
As a reminder, Michelle Berry lost her infant daughter in 2003. After a night out, Ms. Berry went to her parents’ home where she lived with her five-year-old son and daughter. She awakened early in the morning after hearing a noise and found her five-year-old son in the hallway and her daughter motionless. There was no forensic evidence that indicated Ms. Berry was involved in the murder of her infant daughter except for her proximity to the child. There was, however, evidence that other people were in the house around the time the murder took place – including the baby’s father. Several pieces of evidence were collected and tested, however, four significant items that were collected from the home were never tested. Ms. Berry was tried for the murder of her infant daughter on three separate occasions. She was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Oklahoma Innocence Project filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing of those four items of evidence which could potentially prove Ms. Berry’s innocence. A hearing on the motion was heard in July, but we await a ruling on the motion. We are contemplating filing additional motions as necessary.
The Oklahoma Innocence Project Office has been completely reorganized thanks to the work of Cheryl Burns and her “band of volunteers.” On October 14th, Cheryl and our OKIP volunteers alphabetized, reorganized, and revamped the closet storing all of OKIP's active cases. The team spent three hours on the project and the newly organized space looks brand new and it is all thanks to them.
In addition to the Volunteer Day, we have had a dramatic uptick in people who have volunteered their time to help advance the mission of OKIP. Our volunteers have been reviewing questionnaires to assess if a case meets our initial criteria for acceptance into the clinic; documents and transcripts have been scanned; papers have been filed along with help on other administrative matters. We have also been very fortunate to have Rev. Dr. Stan Basler, J.D. in the clinic reviewing cases. Rev. Basler reviews cases after an initial assessment has been completed to determine if there is a path to prove the person’s innocence. This assessment helps us close cases quickly and focus the students on cases that may have untested evidence or a recantation. We are so very thankful for Rev. Basler and the numerous others who volunteer at OKIP.