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The pro bono work being performed at Boston’s Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault is a nice balance to the daily grind that its attorneys face, according to partner Robert N. Feldman. Especially when they can boast that they helped free a person wrongfully convicted of a crime. Attorneys from Connecticut to Maine have joined the Boston affiliate of the New York Cardozo School of Law’s Innocence Project — where attorneys, legal scholars and students help identify, investigate and exonerate, through DNA testing, defendants believed to be innocent of the charges for which they were jailed. Established in 1999, the New England Innocence Project, co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is coordinated out of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, which takes on such cases pro bono. “This firm has always been committed to allowing attorneys to explore pro bono work,” Feldman said, crediting partner Joseph Savage for helping “us to use our big-firm resources by helping out in a small way.” According to Kristin Cronin, a paralegal in the firm, the organization is a regional extension of the Cardozo Innocence Project. Founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufield, the group needed help in reviewing — and possibly solving — its growing list of cases. Cronin said the New England affiliate provides legal representation to individuals convicted in the six-state region where the evidence used against them in court remains in doubt. FLOOD OF REQUESTS Currently 40 of the 51 cases that the local group is actively pursuing are in Massachusetts, including some in Plymouth, Middlesex, Norfolk, Worcester, and Hampshire counties. But because of confidentiality concerns, members of the project won’t name the specific cases they are working on. Cronin said the number of pending cases do not take into account those that the group is requested by prisoners or their family members to review, or the next batch of cases that are being sifted through for possible prosecution purposes. The New England group is just one of many such organizations formed across the country by lawyers and law schools in the wake of the publicity given to the Cardozo project and its successful endeavors. Late last year, an affiliate in Wisconsin won the release of a Texas prisoner who confessed to a murder charge more than 12 years ago. Christopher Ochoa, 34, claimed that homicide detectives coerced him into initially confessing to the 1988 slaying of a woman at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Austin. Through DNA testing, students at the Wisconsin Innocence Project, many of whom are second- and third-year law students, helped prove that someone else killed the woman. The Cardozo project announced its newly formed New England affiliate in conjunction with news that Neil Miller, 33, of Boston, had been exonerated by DNA testing after serving 10 years for the rape and armed robbery of an Emerson College student. Cronin said the local group came together through the efforts of both local attorneys and law students. Massachusetts law schools currently involved with the New England Innocence Project include Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, New England School of Law, Suffolk, Northeastern, and Southern New England. Cronin said more than 100 requests for help have poured in over the past year since the firm began working on cold cases. “We’re trying to narrow our focus,” Cronin said. “We have to maintain some sort of control over the cases we choose to review.” When the group evaluates requests, it tends to select cases that have the best chance of prosecution. Not all cases can be reinvestigated, she admitted. Feldman said the possibility of being able to solve cases down the road is its own reward. “This kind of work really changes someone’s life,” he maintained. “It’s a nice balance to the kinds of other things we do as lawyers.”

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