‘Innocence Project’ Project: Importance of Forensic DNA Evidence

This Forensics Project demonstrates the power of DNA testing as evidence. It will give students the chance to learn about the work of the Innocence Project: a non-profit group that helps people who have been wrongfully imprisoned. The Innocence Project has led to nearly 400 people being released from prison, some of them even from death row.

Most of the exonerations are due to post-conviction DNA testing, which was not available at the time of the trial. The Innocence Project obtains stored evidence from the case and, if possible, tests for DNA. If the DNA does not match the convicted individual – they must be innocent!

Their website lays out six different reasons that innocent people are convicted of crimes:

  • Government Misconduct
  • Bad Lawyering
  • Improper Forensics
  • Informants (snitches)
  • False Confessions
  • Faulty Eyewitnesses Testimony

Students will use the information from the Innocence Project website to learn about their given topic, the strategies for preventing wrongful convictions per their topic, and one actual Case of a person who was wrongfully convicted due to their topic. Students will create a Google Slide presentation with all of this information, and share it with the class.

Depending on your class, students can work in groups or individually. This project can be completed 100% virtually, or in person.

As a wrap up activity, the class can watch a CBS news video (30 minutes long), the amazing story of Ronald Cotton, a man who was wrongfully convicted of rape, and freed with help of the Innocence Project.

Each part of this resource has printable and digital copies – so it can easily be modified for in class and virtual learning use.

Resources are edible!

Take a look at the Preview of the Innocence Project activity!

What is included:

  • Google Slides Introduction to the Innocence Project – This can be used by the teacher to introduce the Innocence Project, or students can go through it themselves.
  • Digital Sign Up Sheet – After being introduced to the Project, students sign up for the topic of their choice using the digital Sign Up sheet. Or use this to put students into groups.
  • Printable Rubrics for all six topics – 100 point rubric with clear instructions for students! Includes LINKS for students that brign them to exactly the information they need to complete the project.
  • Google Slides Templates for all six topics – The templates are so helpful for getting students over the ‘getting started’ hump. Instructions and resource links are included in these slides – they are the same as on the Rubric.
  • Digital and Printable Student Notes on the Innocence Project – Includes discussion questions and a guide for taking notes during student presentations for each topic
  • Digital and Printable Student Notes for the Case of Ronald Cotton – This is one of my favorite videos to show my students. The video is a great way to wrap up this project. An amazing story! Watch it HERE!
  • Comprehensive Teaching Guide – four pages of instructions on how to best use this resource! Easy to use, no guessing!

More resources for Forensic DNA Evidence:

Five Stars!

What some happy teachers are saying about this resource:

The Innocence Project has twelve 5-star ratings on Teachers Pay Teachers!

My students had a great time with this. The information was presented clearly – and it was easy to take this and present in class. Thank you – will use this again this next year.        – Joanna P.       September 21, 2021

I liked this resource because it has everything already ready for students to work on. It allowed for some guidance but students could also look up information independently if they wanted to that was not just the websites that were provided.         – Parul K.       April 13, 2021

Great learning resource – students were engaged and had fun learning.         – John R.       June 22, 2021

Click the link to get the Innocence Project for your classroom!

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