About the Project


At a national conference on wrongful convictions in Atlanta in April 2010, Nancy Smith, Gloria Killian, Audrey Edmunds, Julie Rea, and Beverly Monroe found themselves in a sea of male exonerees. As the women discussed their experiences, they were struck both by the common elements of their cases and by the stark differences between their wrongful convictions and those of their male counterparts. Out of those discussions came a vision for a Women and Innocence Conference, which they hosted the following November in Troy, Michigan. The conference was a huge success with nearly a hundred attendees, including exonerees, academics, authors, attorneys, investigators, students, and supporters of not-yet-exonerated women prisoners. Among the attendees were CWC attorneys Karen Daniel, Judy Royal, and Stephanie Horten, who had been members of the legal team that won Julie Rea's exoneration.

Karen, Judy, and Stephanie knew from experience—the CWC has represented four women—that certain factors occur with frequency in women's wrongful convictions. For instance, all of the CWC clients were single mothers charged with murdering their children. None of the four had even the slightest apparent motive to kill her child. Yet one of the women had falsely confessed under duress, and the others had made statements that police and prosecutors misconstrued as incriminating. As the CWC lawyers and Julie Rea discussed such commonalities, the need for a wrongful conviction project devoted solely to women became apparent. No such project existed—until the CWC launched its Women's Project on November 29, 2012.