The Montana Innocence Project (MTIP) is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to exonerating the innocent and preventing wrongful convictions. Founded in June 2008 by a group of public officials, attorneys, journalists and professors, MTIP’s mission is rooted in the momentous work of other Innocence Projects nationwide. Across the country, 325 people (and counting!)—including 3 in Montana—have been freed through post-conviction DNA testing, after serving an average of 13 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Thousands more have been exonerated by other, non-biological types of evidence. These remarkable stories have provided irrefutable evidence that wrongful convictions occur AND that systemic problems in our justice system must be analyzed and corrected to prevent these grievous mistakes.
While MTIP is an independent nonprofit organization, it is an involved member of the international Innocence Network. To achieve our goals, we provide pro-bono legal and investigative assistance to Montana prisoners who pass our rigorous screening. While physical evidence such as DNA is used to advance many claims of innocence, MTIP also may accept cases where DNA evidence is not available to establish innocence. In addition to pursuing individual cases, we also advocate for public policy reforms that will prevent wrongful convictions, and we work to educate Montanans across the state about these important issues.
At its core, MTIP relies upon the generous efforts and skilled collaboration of a broad array of volunteers. Our esteemed Board of Directors guides the organization with its experienced insight into Montana’s justice system. Our volunteers come from all walks of life to offer their expertise in litigation, investigation, case research, forensic analysis, fundraising, communications, and other MTIP needs. Interns in our interdisciplinary Innocence Clinic, established in affiliation with the University of Montana School of Law and School of Journalism, screen, research and develop innocence claims while gaining valuable skills and academic credits. Our small staff guides and supervises our interns, and coordinates the efforts of all MTIP volunteers to investigate and litigate valid innocence claims and prevent wrongful convictions in our state.