Each year the Montana Innocence Project (MTIP) holds an open house event at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law featuring a unique guest speaker associated with wrongful convictions. This year’s event featured retired Judge Michael Heavey who discussed corruption in the American criminal justice system and the organization he founded, Judges for Justice. Heavey, a former Judge on the King County Superior Court, formed Judges for Justice after his friend and neighbor Amanda Knox was arrested and charged with murder in Italy.
Heavey said he was disturbed by the case because the Amanda he knew and the Amanda portrayed by the media were very different people. He looked into the case and said he realized there were signs of a wrongful conviction. Motivated to help Amanda and prevent future wrongful convictions, Heavey helped create the non-profit organization, Judges for Justice. A wrongful conviction is a failure of the justice system in the most fundamental sense.
The mission of Judges for Justice is to provide independent, impartial and experienced expert analysis of cases of alleged innocence. This independent evaluation may be instrumental to prosecutors, governors, parole boards, the press, and other interested parties in their assessment of innocence. Judges for Justice attempts to raise the
public consciousness in the community to conclude that a mistake was made in convicting an innocent person. Heavey says, “Our evaluation may help raise the awareness of innocence to a prosecuting attorney and motivate the prosecutor to take action.”
Heavey was passionate as he spoke to the MTIP open house audience. He focused on Montana’s own Barry Beach case and
explained how, from a judge’s perspective, the case was mishandled. Beach also happened to be in attendance at the MTIP open house.
MTIP was honored to host this distinguished speaker at our yearly gathering. Earlier in the day Heavey spoke to the MTIP boardand staff and shared how Judges for Justice works to prevent wrongful convictions.
“I was thrilled when I read about the work that Mike does in Seattle
with a group of judges seeking to prevent wrongful convictions and I wanted him here in Montana to tell us about how his organization works,” said MTIP Executive Director Lisa Mecklenberg Jackson. “We are all on the same side in the fight for justice.”