12:15-1:15 p.m., S.J. Quinney College of Law Moot Courtroom (Level 6)
DNA evidence has led to the undoing of hundreds of wrongful convictions across the country. These wrongful convictions have caused unimaginable harm to the innocent, who lost years of freedom while wrongly imprisoned and faced numerous obstacles to rebuilding their lives after coming home. However, those same wrongful convictions have also caused pain and suffering to the survivors and victims of the original crimes, who were devastated upon discovering that the real perpetrator was never caught, forced to relive the trauma and pain of the original crime, and often blamed publicly for having played a role in the conviction. The families of the wrongly convicted and original victims were also deeply harmed, and their lives are permanently affected. And these are not the only collateral damages from wrongful convictions. All people touched by a wrongful conviction – from the innocent, crime victims, and both of their families to the police, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and jurors – are harmed on a personal level when actual perpetrators elude justice. This presentation will focus on this widespread human damage and will feature Penny Beerntsen, a crime survivor from a case that resulted in a wrongful conviction, and Katie Monroe, the daughter of an exoneree. Please join us for this very exciting discussion and a new and important perspective on criminal justice failures that lead to wrongful convictions.
Penny Beerntsen is a retired business woman who has been active in the restorative justice movement since the early 1990’s, when she helped establish the Sexual Assault Resource Center in her hometown of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. In 1992 she received certification from the University of Minnesota in Victim/Offender Mediation. She advocates for both victim and offender rights and has facilitated numerous victim/offender dialogues, including those involving crimes of severe violence. Penny served on Wisconsin’s Crime Victims Rights Board from 1999-2004. She was a member of the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Study Commission from 2004-2008. While residing in the Chicago area from 2004-2014, Penny volunteered at Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Innocence Project from 2013-2016 and is currently involved with the Healing Justice Project. Penny’s interest in criminal justice issues began after she was sexually assaulted and almost murdered in July 1985, while jogging on a Lake Michigan beach in Wisconsin. As a result of a flawed identification process, she selected Steven Avery’s photo from a line-up. He was convicted and sentenced to 32 years in prison. Eighteen years later Avery was exonerated by DNA and released. Penny was devastated to learn that Steve was innocent and that the actual perpetrator, Gregory Allen, remained free until 1995 and committed additional sexual assaults. In collaboration with various innocence projects, she has traveled around the country speaking about the need for reform in eyewitness identification procedures. In 2007 Steven Avery was convicted of murdering Teresa Halbach, and is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. His conviction, which he is appealing, was the subject of the 2015 Netflix documentary, “Making a Murderer”.
Katie is Executive Director of Healing Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support, reconciliation, and recovery to people harmed by wrongful convictions. Before joining Healing Justice, Katie was Senior Advocate for National Partnerships with the Innocence Project, where she worked to develop collaboration with other criminal justice stakeholder organizations, including crime victims, police, and prosecutors. Katie also served as Executive Director at the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center and Senior Counsel at the Constitution Project and US Commission on Civil Rights. Katie received her law degree from George Mason University and has taught law courses on wrongful convictions at both George Mason and the University of Utah. She also served on the Board of Directors for the National Innocence Network and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and currently serves on the Victim Services Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Katie’s interest in wrongful convictions began in 1992, when her mother was wrongly convicted of murder in Virginia. Katie spearheaded a legal battle to free her mother, which was won in 2003.
Paid parking is available at the Rice-Eccles Stadium using the pay-by-phone app. We encourage you to use public transportation to our events. Take TRAX University line to the Stadium stop and walk a half block north. For other public transit options use UTA’s Trip Planner. The law school is on the Red Route for the University’s free campus shuttles (College of Law stop).