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Digital Innocence

Wrongful convictions happen

Since 1989 – 2,666 innocent people have been exonerated

that  served more than 23,950 years in prison.

We think the system can do better, so we decided to change it.

What we do

We help prevent and overturn wrongful convictions in cases involving digital evidence.

Provide support to public defenders and wrongful conviction entities that represent individuals with post-conviction claims of innocence involving digital evidence

Focus our efforts at the system level for public defenders and innocence project orgs to achieve the biggest impact

Create resources for equitable and fair representation in today’s criminal justice system.

Our goals

  • Provide a comprehensive approach to review cases involving digital evidence.

  • Identify and use new technology to re-examine digital evidence to uncover new evidence.

  • Prevent wrongful convictions by providing training and resources for public defenders.

  • Raise awareness of the causes of wrongful convictions in cases involving digital evidence.

Digital evidence is a powerful vehicle for justice!

Our impact

We strengthen the defense at the system level to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place and created a pathway for post-conviction review using new technology to uncover new evidence.

Digital Innocence-impact of wrongful convictions

Impact of wrongful convictions

  • Over 1 million people are currently incarcerated in the US.
  • Between 2% and 10% of convicted individuals are innocent.
  • 2,666 people have been exonerated in the US since 1989.
  • Innocent people served more than 23,950 years in prison so far.
  • Of 100 people on death row, 4 are likely innocent – Only 2 will be exonerated.

Understanding wrongful convictions

When it comes to wrongful convictions, most people think of DNA, but according to the Nation Registry of Exonerations, only 21% of exonerations involved DNA evidence.

Since 1989, there have been 2706 people freed because of misapplied forensic science compared to 570 case involving DNA.

Digital innocence- National Registry of Exonerations DNA vs Non DNA exonerations

Leading cause

According to the National Registry of Exonerations – misapplied forensic science contributed to more than half of wrongful convictions since 1989.

“Misapplied forensic science is the leading cause of wrongful convictions”

Misapplied forensic science

According to the Innocent Project, “misapplied forensic science is caused by forensic science practitioners who:”

  • Provided misleading testimony
  • Exaggerated connections between the crime scene evidence and accused
  • Mischaracterized exculpatory results as inconclusive
  • Downplayed the limitations of the forensic science method used
  • Made mistakes when performing methods in a laboratory
  • Fabricated results or hidden exculpatory evidence

Misapplied forensic science disciplines

The following methods were once widely accepted and used to secure convictions that have now been found to be unreliable.

  • Bite mark analysis
  • Hair comparisons
  • Tool mark evidence
  • Arson investigation
  • Fingerprint analysis
  • Dog scent evidence
  • Comparative bullet lead analysis
  • Shaken baby syndrome diagnosis
  • Bloodstain pattern analysis

Digital forensics in criminal cases

Digital forensics is a forensic science discipline and a process to forensically create a copy of the digital evidence without altering the original data.

Like other forensic sciences it requires a quality management system, special training and equipment.

Digital evidence has been used by law enforcement since 1989 and currently 90% of criminal cases nationally involve some form of digital evidence.

Digital Innocence-chart showing 90% of criminal case now involved digital evidence

Misapplied digital forensics

Since misapplied forensics is the leading cause of wrongful convictions and digital evidence has been used to convict people for the last two decades and currently makes up more than 90% of criminal cases nationally, digital forensics has the potential to be the leading cause of past, current and future wrongful convictions.

Contributing factors

The leading contributing factor in wrongful convictions is a weak or in-effective defense that lacks parity in resources, technology and training to what is available to law enforcement.

Weak or in-effective defense

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics about 80% of those charged with a felony rely on court appointed counsel that is underfunded and limited capacity

Digital Innocence-chart of 80% of people in the criminal justice system rely on the public defenders

Underfunded

National assessment studies show that public defenders are underfunded and face unreasonably high work expectations, operating on average at about 66% capacity.

Limited capacity

Lack of resources and parity means that the majority of public defenders are not able to refute digital evidence introduced by the prosecution or mount a strong technology-based defense.

Lack of parity ensures unequal justice

According to the Innocence Project, “Many of the 245 people exonerated through DNA testing were represented by public defenders or appointed attorneys.”

Who is most affected

Between the dual forces of misapplied forensic science and weak or ineffective defense working against them, the people who rely on the services of public defenders are most at risk.

According to the Innocence Project, more than 60% of their clients had been represented by the public defenders and 68 percent of the people exonerated were minorities.

How many are at risk

The number of people exonerated due to of digital evidence is unknown because it is not tracked, but wrongful convictions happen in cases involving digital evidence and some have been from more than 20 years ago.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the approximately 2 million people are arrested and charged with a serious crime each year, 80% of those people rely on court appointed counsel.

Of the 1.5 million people at risk each year and over the last 23 years to 2000, would represent almost 35 million people – approximately 10 % of the population in the US.

Prevention and awareness

We continue to identify advances in digital forensic technology and new techniques that can be applied to older technology to uncover new evidence.

  • Raise awareness of the causes of wrongful convictions in cases involving digital evidence.

  • Provide ongoing digital evidence training to defense teams.

  • Highlight the need for early assistance of counsel to preserve time-sensitive digital evidence.

  • Promote a national standard of training for defense attorneys and investigators.

  • Shape laws in a positive way to provide parity in capabilities, training and resources to public defenders to prevent wrongful convictions and establish a future pathway to post conviction relief in cases involving digital evidence.

Who We Are

The Digital Evidence Innocence Initiative is a not for profit organization created by a criminal defense investigator, criminal defense attorney and digital forensic expert and formed through collaborative efforts with stakeholder public defenders.

We have worked in collaboration with the Connecticut Public Defenders and launched our program at the first New England Regional Public Defender Training Seminar.

Digital Innocence launched at the first New England regional public defender training

More data can be recovered from millions of iPhones

Recent breakthroughs in digital forensics technology now allows new evidence to be recovered from millions of iPhones dating back to the iPhone model 5s released in 2013.

Digital Innocence-iPhones affected by new digital forensic technology

Cellebrite’s recent release of the Checkm8 forensic exploit allows forensic examiners to access more information from these older devices that was previously inaccessible such as deleted texts.

This release is a game changer in the word digital forensics moving forward, but also gives us the ability to look back and apply this technology in post conviction cases to obtain new evidence.

Click the following link for the Cellebrite Checkm8 exploit press release and technical discussion to see what model iPhones are affected.

Link to PDF Cellebrite Release notes
Link to Technical Discussion CHeckm8 PDF

If you have a case involving digital evidence and need help or have questions contact us for assistance.

New technology affects millions of Feature Phones

New options are available for feature phones

Recent breakthroughs in digital forensics technology allows new evidence to be recovered from millions of feature phones that were not previously accessible. Feature phones have a limited operating system and not all support third-party software like smartphones.

Digital Innocence-feature phones affected by new digital forensic technology

Cellebrite’s recent release now supports extractions features phones running the KaiOS operating system such as Track Phone, Nokia and Alcatel. This is significant moving forward, but also gives us the ability to go back and apply this technology in post conviction cases to obtain new evidence.

Click the following link for the Cellebrite release notes for a complete listing of models now accessible.

Link to PDF Cellebrite Release notes

If you have a case involving digital evidence and need help or have questions contact us for assistance.