UVA hosts panel about wrongfully convicted Virginians

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- On Wednesday evening, the University of Virginia School of Law hosted a discussion among five Virginians who were wrongfully convicted of serious crimes.

The event was titled "Speaking of Injustice," and it acted as a fundraiser for the Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic at UVA Law. That project helps represent people who feel like they were wrongfully convicted.

Robert Davis, Thomas Haynesworth, Michael Hash, Eric Weakley and Beverly Monroe each discussed their cases of false incarceration, and talked with people about the valuable role that innocence efforts played in winning their freedom.

Hash was convicted of killing an elderly woman in Crozet in 1996. He served 13 years in jail and was exonerated after a judge found police and prosecutorial misconduct.

He says he hopes the event will open people's eyes to the very real problems that are happening in the criminal justice system.

"With that awareness comes an awakening. People learn that wrongful convictions are a reality, and they learn that there are consequences to them. As people of a society, we should demand more from people in positions of power to prevent that thing from happening," he said.

The event was hosted by author John Grisham and Slate Senior Editor Dahlia Lithwick. Lithwick says she hopes people leave the event questioning why some of these judicial wrongdoings occur.

"Things that we think can't possibly be flawed are flawed. I think all of us have to watch the system and watch where the cracks are, and that can help us all think about how do we reform the way cops do their job, prosecutors do their job, and how we can reform the political justice system," she said.

Many speakers, including Hash, spoke about the Innocence Project at UVA. He says without the program, he might still be in jail.

"I owe a lot to them. I hope that people coming realize how important their work is," he said.

To find out more about the project, visit the link in the Related Links box.

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