Larry Fuller, center, is freed in October 2006, exonerated by DNA evidence after he served more than 25 years in prison for aggravated rape. He is flanked by Innocence Project lawyers Barry Scheck and Vanessa Potkin.
The co-founder of The Innocence Project says seeing 218 people exonerated during the last several years has provided bittersweet moments.
Internationally known attorney Barry Scheck was in Charleston recently for a fundraiser. He sat down for a one-on-one interview with MetroNews about the project addressing its discoveries and accomplishments.
The Innocence Project uses DNA results to help free the wrongly convicted.
"Often I go to these exonerations and I see these people getting out of prison who have been in for 20, 26 years and I know how hard it's going to be for them to reenter society," Scheck said.
The average prison stay for those wrongly convicted and freed by The Innocence Project has been 12 years, but Scheck says amazingly none of them have expressed bitterness toward those responsible for putting them behind bars.
"They have a peculiar spiritual transcendence that somehow they were able to overcome and forgive many of the individuals involved in the unjust and wrongful prosecution," Scheck said.
But Scheck says the transition back into normal life has been difficult for many of those freed. He says they quickly find out their friends and families have moved on after 20 years and people are not the same. He says they often feel left behind and different. "Sometimes it's bittersweet when I see these exonerations, I worry about them," Scheck said.
There is less money and fewer programs available for those wrongly convicted and freed from prison than people that are guilty and released on parole according to Scheck. "There's no formal reentry program and there's nobody to offer them doctor's care, transportation or a way to get a job," Scheck said.
Sixteen of the 218 freed were on death row. Scheck says even with all of the difficulties, it's still satisfying to see the innocent released from prison. "It is an extraordinary experience," he said. "It's the best thing you can have as a lawyer."