NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Thousands of people have been sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. In Tennessee, 21 people have been exonerated and those numbers have helped spearhead the Tennessee Innocence Project.
The organization's Nashville location opened in February and on Wednesday night staff held their first fundraiser, which was emceed by former Tennessee Titan Eddie George. The event also welcomed special guest and best-selling author John Grisham.
Grisham, known for his books like a Time to Kill and the Firm, recently turned the pages to writing about wrongful convictions in his books, the Innocent Man and the Guardians. He's been traveling across the Country throwing his support to local Innocence Projects.
"Once I got into that research I realized there’s a lot of innocent people in prison. I realized the numbers and how many innocent people there are and how many exonerations we have, how many bad convictions there are," said Grisham.
Grisham said the organization has ten pieces of legislation that would money, suffering and lives but he says it starts with getting the bills head on Capitol floors.
"If we could tighten up forensic evidence and eliminate junk science from the courtroom, if we could make the police video all interrogations to cut all the bad stuff they do, if you can pay defense attorneys more money," Grisham said.
Jessica Van Dyke, executive director of the Tennessee Project, says the organization isn't looking for technicalities but rather inmates who are innocent of their crimes.
The Tennessee team is taking applications for clients and is working to expand its staff across the state.