OB’s Justin Brooks, a law professor at Cal Western School of Law, is leading a 600 mile march from San Diego to Sacramento, on behalf of his clients. He’s walking with other lawyers and supporters of the California Innocence Project.
The Innocence Project, begun by Brooks and based at his law school, reviews cases of inmates who claim that they are innocent of the convictions that sent them to prison or jail. Each year, the Project reviews more than 1,500 requests selecting about 50 to be investigated.
In 2012, the Innocence Project made international headlines with the exoneration of NFL Football player Brian Banks.
But now Brooks has 12 clemency petitions from California prison inmates, known as the “California 12,” whose cases supporters say show compelling evidence of innocence, and Brooks wants to present them to Governor Jerry Brown, inmates who are innocent but they’ve exhausted their legal options for appeal.
Brooks told the press:
“There is no rational reason to keep innocent people in prison. In each one of these 12 cases, there is compelling evidence of innocence. The governor has the power to release them and we will ask him to use that power.
I want to get the word out about these cases because my clients are poor, they are not politically connected, and the only way they are going to get clemency is if the governor hears what these cases are all about,”
Brooks – joined on the long walk by fellow staff attorneys Mike Semanchik and Alissa Bjerkhoel – intend to bring attention to the fact that wrongful convictions continue to exist in our prison system.
The Innocence March kicked off on Saturday, April 27, at the CalWestern, with a rally at the school, and then Brooks and supporters walked the eight miles to Ocean Beach. They reached Oceanside on Tuesday morning, the 30th of April, and the plan is to arrive in Sacramento on June 20th.
Some of the inmates freed by the work of the Project and some of the families of the Project’s incarcerated clients, will join in on parts of the walk with the three attorneys, with hopes that a large crowd will march with them that last mile to Sacramento.
Also, Adam Rojas, one of the Project’s clients who was freed in 2004 after serving almost 14 years for a murder he didn’t commmit, joined them in the walk to Oceanside, where he is the pastor of evangelism and outreach for Calvary Chapel. Rojas told the media:
“You can never understand what freedom truly is until it’s taken away.”