Idaho Innocence Project puts new cases on hold after losing grant
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - The Idaho Innocence Project won't take on any new cases after its major funding source dried up, according to Director Greg Hampikian.
The Boise-based group uses DNA evidence to help free the wrongfully convicted. Hampikian and his team played a role in the acquittal of Amanda Knox, and they are currently working two cases in Idaho.
"I can't commit resources we don't have, so people are writing us, and I'm having to tell them we're on hold right now," Hampikian said. "We're waiting to see where we end up."
Hampikian said 100 prisoners or so write each year, but the Idaho Innocence Project can't help them now that its grant proposal was rejected.
The U.S. Department of Justice didn't award the group a two-year $220,000 grant. Hampikian volunteers, but the Project counted on that money the past four years to pay legal help.
"So who does it affect? It affects the families, and you don't know if you're going to be one of these families one day where one of your family members is accused and surprisingly convicted of something they didn't do," said Hampikian, who also plays a role in trials around the world.
Knox was accused of killing her roommate in Italy in 2007. Hampikian looked at the DNA evidence and helped her defense team. An Italian jury overturned the 2009 murder conviction. New evidence is expected Wednesday after the Italian Supreme Court demanded a retrial.
"That knife has no reliable evidence that it was used in the murder," Hampikian said. "It is a kitchen knife that was probably used for cooking the night of the murder and had nothing to do with it."
Hampikian said he is now scrambling to raise money to continue his work.
"I'd rather work on cases, I'd rather to do what only I can do. Somebody else can probably do this, but I'm the volunteer director, and I'm the only one left. The captain's left on the ship, I have to call people."
The Idaho Innocence Project has enough money to finish its two Idaho cases, according to Hampikian, but he's already turning away others asking for help until he can come up with the money.