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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Innocence Matters

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Social Action & Advocacy, Crime & Law, Education, Legal Services

Mission: We believe the innocent should not be incarcerated and when mistakes are discovered we should all join forces to correct the error and free the innocent quickly. Our work is primarily focused on the broader goals of education, prevention and reform. We are particularly interested in improving the quality of indigent defense services and implementing systemic changes that will better protect the innocent and encourage the legal community to more quickly acknowledge and correct errors. Our preventative programs are designed to bring about lasting change and provide a broad toolkit for the innocent and their attorneys.

Results: September 24, 2012: John Edward Smith was reunited with his family after serving 19 years for a murder he did not commit. October 10, 2014: Susan Marie Mellen was reunited with her family after serving 17 years for a murder she did not commit.

Target demographics: the innocent

Programs: the I Am Innocent seminar that teaches the innocent how to prevent their wrongful conviction and the Ganging Up on Innocence investigation program to help people who have already been wrongfully convicted.

Community Stories

16 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Innocence Matters is clearly and passionately a second-look organization for people who are wrongfully convicted in Los Angeles County. I thank Innocence Matters and my attorney, Deirdre O’Connor, for the dedication and passion to my Freedom and for setting the “truth” of my wrongful prosecution to be corrected within our judicial system. Without the commitment and loyalty of Deirdre O’Connor, I would still be wrongfully imprisoned and living life without the possibility of parole. Ultimately for my own survival and edification, I had to stay focused on a Life with One Purpose which is to have faith in GOD and to help other innocent women within the judicial system to touch freedom. Now as a free individual, I am living my new adventure and being a voice for Innocence Matters. Life is not worth living unless you are helping someone else. My life has truly evolved to a world of “GOD-Sents”. After seventeen (17) years of wrongful imprisonment, Deirdre was GOD’s angel sent to me with an impassioned pledge to prove my innocence and to unshackled me to my new journey in the “Free World”. I’ve always said from the moment I met Deirdre “She is the Real Deal”. The first time we met, she cried real tears of compassion; seriously, what attorney does that? My new world is open-handed with blessings of my family reunification and love. Deirdre herself is instrumental in making my family complete. I ultimately thank David Winkler for convincing Deirdre O’Connor for taking my case. He, is truly the “key” that opened my door to Freedom. I also thank all the interns that are associated with Innocence Matter; without their continued visits and inspiring communications, my term within the LA County Jail system would have been deplorable.

1 Aquarius W.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It is good to know that there are people out in the world that really cares about the people and will help fight for what is right. Deirdre O'Connor you are a true blessing to the Mellen family.
Thank you

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Innocence Matters is an absolutely necessary non-profit these days. There is so much corruption and innefficiency in our justice system. I would NEVER want to be in a position where my innocence was questioned, without having a resource like "Innocence Matters" to help. There are just too many mistaken cases nowadays. Please consider supporting "Innocence Matters" to ensure justice for ALL.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I found Susan through Friend-2-Friend at my church. That was 8 years ago. In those years I have come to believe in Susan's innocence. When Innocence Matters stepped in and Deirdre O'Connor took over things began to happen--positive, definitive, exciting and encouraging events. After serving 17 years in prison for a crime she did not commit, Susan felt renewed hope for the first time.

Deirdre O'Connor is an exemplary attorney committed to justice. Her due diligence is unmatched; her dedication tireless and impressive; her success rate is to be acknowledged and applauded; and her spirit of giving in fulfilling the Mission Statement of Innocence Matters is unequaled.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a legal intern for Innocence Matters this past summer. What an impact it has made made in my life! It was one of the best experiences I have had with a nonprofit. The work that this organization does is incredible. This organization changes people’s lives. The Innocence Matters’ team fights for what is right and fights for the truth. Deirdre O’Connor and her team help the people that everyone else has given up on. O’Connor and her team work nonstop, around the clock and produce amazing quality work! This organization is filled with an unbelievable amount of passion, determination, dedication, and heart. The way O’Connor and her team handle their client’s cases is truly inspiring. This organization works extremely hard for its clients. And do you know why they work so hard? Because they truly care about their clients and making a difference in the world, one case at a time!! I CANNOT wait to see what the future has in store for Innocence Matters. Thank you for inspiring me, Innocence Matters!!!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a summer extern at Innocence Matters for the Summer of 2014. Not only did I gain valuable legal experience, but the organization also furthered my desire to focus my legal career in criminal law. I was inspired by Deirdre O'Connor's dedication and manner in which she handled her cases. As a third-year law student, I can truly say that my experience at Innocence Matters will help me tremendously in expanding my opportunities in this field. I am excited about the upcoming developments in the cases, which I had the opportunity to work on this summer, and will be keeping in touch with the organization throughout my legal career.

1 Dan_59

Volunteer

Rating: 5

During my time at Innocence Matters I was overwhelmed by the level of dedication and grit organisation members showed. Day in and day out members worked tirelessly to see justice served for a number of people that the system has simply forgotten.

Working on tight budgets, the organisations' output to resource ratio was impressive and their dedication to work from early in the morning until well into the night was inspirational.

Travelling from Australia in order to take up my position, I did not know what to expect upon my arrival. However, after spending two months full-time with Deirdre and the team I would gladly dedicate my time again, to what is a truly worthy cause and a sincerely honourable organisation.

Comments ( 1 )

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Innocence Matters 04/29/2014

Say the word, my Aussie friend, and we'll save you a seat! We miss you!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My passion to set free an innocent man from a sentence of life without the possibility of parole encouraged me to network by attending the reception for John Smith, Innocence Matters’ first client to be freed by their wonderful, expert and thorough work. Then I got a phone call from Deirdre about doing volunteer work for this outstanding and warm group of people who forget themselves and go full steam ahead doing the nitty-gritty work needed to reach their goal of justice. I said yes and then was able to help them secure a much needed grant. Since then I have had opportunities to work with the entire Innocence Matters team and what a great feeling it is to know that even the small things I do are going to help free innocent people from prison and prevent wrongful convictions. Join us and be a part of this great organization and see what you, too, can do to support us and our work!

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would make sure people knew that immediate funding would help Innocence Matters secure larger office space so they can serve more people more efficiently.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've never experienced an organization like INNOCENCE MATTERS. The opportunity for learning, for working and actively participating in events that will bring about change are many. There are many ways to get involved depending on what your goals are. An intern might one day be working on an investigation and the next day speaking at a neighborhood school sharing our education and prevention programs. INNOCENCE MATTERS is not for wimps, it's serious people about serious things. And, make no mistake, you must have a really good sense of humor.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Words cannot even describe the passion emanating from each and every person involved with or touched by Innocence Matters. Becoming a part of this organization helped me grow and as a person and expand my knowledge on the little steps people can take in helping to prevent wrongful conviction from occurring. Starting with the founders, to the Board members, to the staff, and the interns there is not one person within the organization that isn't soulfully passionate about the mission. My eyes have been opened and I have never felt so lucky to have this opportunity to be a part of something so life changing. I had never realized that the love I have for Innocence Matters would grow to such extremes, but I am overjoyed that it has. This organization has touched many lives with its positive goals, and I have no doubt that Innocence Matters will be a part of my life for a very long time.

1 Lisa275

Volunteer

Rating: 5

InnocenceMatters.Org is a stellar organization whose main goal is to help exonerate those wrongrully convicted... the forgotten. There is nothing more precious than our freedom and the one thing that we all take for granted. I am finally a part of an organization where my support/work really matters and is significant. Along with my counterparts, we are saving lives in ways that most of us can only imagine. What better way to spend my time than to give selflessly for a worthy cause?!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A singular nonprofit with passionate volunteers that inspire great work and community. I am so honored to be involved with an organization that seeks to effect positive and impactful change within the justice system.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came to this organization wanting to give back to the community and make a difference. To say I was pleasantly surprised to see and experience the passion, dedication and tenacity this group of Interns and Deirdre have toward their cause is humbling; they are driven by the susceptibility of our Justice system. Innocence Matters is an amazing group committed to the innocent, vulnerable and defenseless.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

An amazing organization that aims to fight for and exonerate wrongly convicted inmates in jail. A team of wonderful, dedicated staff that want to make a difference and help change the lives of the innocent. A pleasure and honor to be able to work for the cause with such an exceptional group of people.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A unique nonprofit endeavor that seeks to exonerate the most vulnerable in our justice system. An unforgettable volunteer experience with some truly remarkable people.

1 B-guid M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I arrived at Innocence Matters in January 2013 I had no knowledge of the Californian judicial system.

Indeed I am French. As a lawyer in my country I know how tricky law can be, so even if I wanted to be involved in Innocence Matters I did not know what form my participation could take. What I just knew was that I wanted to be a part of it.

In fact, Innocence Matters has helped me at least as much as I have helped it.

It has helped me as much as a lawyer than as a person. First, it enabled me to think and share my thoughts and ideas on what tracks could be followed in investigations concerning wrongful convictions. Deirdre O’Connor is an incredibly good criminal defense attorney and is totally dedicated to the cases she is dealing with. Working with her was a very intellectual, judicial but also personal enrichment. Then, as a lawyer, it contributed to my understanding of a part of the American judicial system and gave me a good opportunity to add a valuable line on my resume.

In return, at Innocence Matters I have dealt with Inmates requests in the “Ganging up on Innocence” project. No one can imagine how desperate and resourceless innocent people can be to fight against a wrongful conviction.

So, if you have time, motivation, the envy to invest yourself in investigations and to learn about you just as much as the Californian legal system, do not hesitate a sec! Just jump in, this is the right thing to do, because what could be a better cause than helping the innocent to find freedom again?

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I loved my experience with Innocence Matters. Working with Deirdre O'Connor as an intern was an invaluable experience. It sharpened my practical lawyering skills. In law school they teach you how to read cases and analyze law. At Innocence Matters I learned how to prepare a case, think through a trial, and investigate. As a lawyer I still use the investigation techniques I learned from Innocence Matters in every case that comes my way.

I cannot say enough how much I appreciate my internship at Innocence Matters. Not only did it teach me practical lawyering skills, but I was able to learn these skills while working on cases that posed significant consequences. I worked on cases and talked to clients that were in a position where the odds were stacked against them and I helped to advocate for them. Those who study and practice the law have an obligation to understand the impact it has on people's lives. Regardless of what type of law you wish to practice Innocence Matters will teach you the legal skills and conscientious mentality necessary to make a great attorney. Get involved, you won't regret it!