Minnesota organization receives grant to review legal cases for those believed to be innocent

The Innocence Project of Minnesota has been awarded a federal grant to review legal cases for people believed to be innocent.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS looked into how it’ll partner with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office on the state’s first-ever Conviction Review Unit.

After more than a decade behind bars, Terry Olson was released in 2016. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was there when he was released, and Olson said, "Hold on, and keep your faith in the Lord, and hold on, there are people working hard to make things like this happen."

The Innocence Project of Minnesota said Olson was wrongly accused of murder and released for time served in the interest of justice.

"If the state of Minnesota didn’t have an Innocence Project organization, that would’ve been it for me," Olson said Thursday.

The Innocence Project of Minnesota said it will use $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice over a two-year period to create its first-ever Conviction Review Unit.

"What’s exciting about this, is it means that the prosecutor’s office is going to be cooperating in the process, so they might be willing to look at evidence that wasn’t considered before… or maybe the science has advanced to be able to do some testing that wasn’t possible when they first went to prison, so it’s just an extra layer of protection for justice, because we don’t want innocent people in prison," said Sara Jones, The Innocence Project of Minnesota’s executive director.

Minnesota will be just the fourth state in the country to have its unit operate through an attorney general’s office, The Innocence Project said, adding that it will offer an additional tool for justice for people wrongfully convicted.

Olson said, "I got it back to a certain extent. Yeah. It’s still a struggle, because of course before this happened to me, my life was quite different than it is now. I still struggle now to get back what was taken from me."

You can participate in The Innocence Project of Minnesota’s virtual gala 2020 Benefit for Innocence on Thursday at 7 p.m. by clicking here.

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