General Procedures Followed by Advocates for Wrongfully Convicted (A4WC)
There are a total of six stages to A4WC's development of and commitment to a case:
In this first stage the prisoner MUST thoroughly complete a prisoner questionnaire tand submit it to us along with a detailed write-up of the specifics of your crime, how you were convicted and proof of your innocence. Failure to provide this information in its completeness will delay a response from us and/or an outright rejection of your request/application. Please do NOT send any additional information (I.e. trial transcripts, appeal decisions, etc.) at this time. If and when we need additional information we will notify you to send it to us.
When the prisoner questionnaire is received, our first task is to decide whether it meets A4WC's criteria (see below) for considering a case. If the inmate's case does not meet our conditions, he or she will be notified and given any advice we feel might be useful. Often, further correspondence is necessary to make this determination. We receive many new requests so it sometimes takes a months for us to respond to request.
For inmates who do meet our conditions, Stage 2 consists of a lengthy correspondence in which we try to elicit from the inmate all the information we can about the circumstances of the case. In this stage, we want the information in the inmate's own words, without any official documents (except for the pre-sentence report) unless specifically requested. It is important to stress that this correspondence does not mean we are committed to taking the case. Stage 2 can be time-consuming and requires a great deal of effort on the inmate's part. At this (or any other) stage either the inmate or A4WC may decide to terminate the relationship.
Once we are satisfied that we have gathered as much information as we can, we put the case in a holding file. During this stage, we may correspond occasionally with the inmate to give support should the need arise. The inmate may give us newly acquired information. At this stage, the inmate's case is discussed during our staff meetings.
When an opening occurs or for any number of reasons, we could move the inmate's file to Stage 4. Only at this stage will we request and read the trial transcripts.
In this stage, and after a careful review of the entire record of the case, we will now meet personally with the inmate for a lengthy interview.
It is at this stage that we commit to a case. When that happens we then pursue all avenues of creating awareness of the inmates plight (wrongful conviction). It is at this stage that we start building a web site and Facebook Page (blog and Twitter account also will be considered) for the inmate, try to obtain media exposure, set up a support group, develop a newsletter, have communication with the inmates appellate lawyer, and try to get the case in front of The Innocence Project and/or some other wrongfully convicted organization that may be helpful in overturning the inmates wrongful conviction.
It is important to reiterate a few major points: we are not lawyers; we are criminal justice advocates; there is no immediate, magical solution; our process can be long, difficult, and sometimes mentally distressing. We are here as a resource for all those who write to us and fit our criteria. We seek truth and justice. We wish we could do much more for the many convicted innocent whose cases we cannot accept due to our limited resources.
A4WC has very narrow criteria for the types of cases that we will consider reviewing. Therefore we are not able to help the majority of those who contact us. We have adopted these narrow criteria so that we may function in an efficient and productive manner. We regret that we cannot be all things to all people. Please review our stated criteria (which follows), our general procedures (see above), and how to contact us if you know someone who fits ALL of the listed criteria.
- We only consider murder or rape cases of adults within the United States and Canada that carry a 25+ years or death sentence.
- We will only consider an adult rape case if there is the possibility of using DNA testing to clear the convicted person.
- We do NOT consider child sex, abuse or molestation.cases as these are very specific cases in which we do not have the expertise;
- We will only accept cases where the prisoner is absolutely 100% innocent of the crime and have had absolutely no involvement whatsoever with the crime; Our definition of Innocence is innocent beyond ANY doubt.
- We only accept cases after a prisoner has been convicted at trial and BEFORE his direct state appeals have been exhausted.
- We cannot accept cases if the prisoner has exhausted their 2254 rights in federal courts.
- We only accept cases where the prisoner is indigent;
- We are NOT lawyers and, therefore, cannot offer legal assistance to those who petition us for help. We CANNOT make referrals to attorneys.
- We do not accept cases if the prisoner is already working with another wrongfully convicted advocacy group or one of the Innocence Projects.
- If the inmate meets ALL of our criteria, their initial letter to us should be brief, outlining the facts of the crime, the evidence which led to their arrest and conviction of the crime, and their reason for their innocence..
INMATES SHOULD NOT SEND BRIEFS OR TRANSCRIPTS OR OTHER MATERIALS! We just want to hear the facts in the inmate's own words. We in turn will send them a letter that outlines exactly what information we want, and what they can expect from us in the way of assistance.
A word of caution: We are a small organization, with many requests for help. While we are interested in all wrongful convictions, our resources severely limit the number of people we can take on as clients.
Periodically we are forced to place a moratorium on reviewing further cases for a period of time due to an overwhelming avalanche of letters we have received. During these times, we decline accepting any case for review until we are able to process the previous onslaught of requests. At these times the inmate is requested to write us again in two years.