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April 13, 2007

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or
Press/Library Contact: Melissa Bernstein, Tarlton Law Library, (512) 471-7292 or

Tarlton Law Library Creates Actual Innocence Awareness Database to Access Information about Wrongful Convictions

AUSTIN, Texas—The Tarlton Law Library at The University of Texas at Austin has compiled an Actual Innocence awareness database ( which contains citations, and links where possible, to current articles, scholarship, legislation and other materials in the area of wrongful convictions.

The materials are classified into what are considered the primary causes of wrongful conviction. They include forensics/DNA; eyewitness identification; false confessions; jailhouse informants; police and/or prosecutorial misconduct; and ineffective representation. There is also a “general” category for those items which defy further categorization.

The project developed out of a need to support the Texas Center for Actual Innocence ( and the Actual Innocence Clinic at The University of Texas Law School, as well as other innocence projects around the country.

“We hope that the database will be a valuable resource to the community of attorneys, scholars and students who work tirelessly to release those who have been wrongly convicted,” said Melissa Bernstein, the reference librarian in the Tarlton Law Library who compiled the materials.

The purpose of the database is to create a type of “virtual library” that brings together and organizes the overwhelming amount of material that is now available on wrongful convictions, from popular media (such as newspaper articles and segments on television news magazines), to journal articles, books, reports, legislation and websites. Materials from approximately the last 10 years have been included in the database, which was designed by Scott Webel, print and digital publications designer in the Tarlton Law Library.

The Tarlton Law Library already maintains three legal literature databases – copyright, capital punishment and domestic violence – which serve as resources for finding current journal articles related to the particular areas of law. The Law Library staff selects relevant articles daily from the U.S. legal journals and non-U.S. legal journals and then compiles the basic information about the article, together with a brief summary and an image of the first page of each article.

The Actual Innocence database is a more comprehensive database in that it is not limited to journal articles and maintains a searchable archive of material organized by “cause” of wrongful conviction. The database also has links to the many innocence projects around the country, as well as other helpful resources.

The website will be updated as new resources become available. Please direct any questions or comments about this service to Bernstein at

Related Links:

Tarlton Law Library:

The Texas Center for Actual Innocence: