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The Texas Center for Actual Innocence

The Texas Center for Actual Innocence (TCAI) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation that screens and investigates claims from inmates that they are actually innocent of the offense for which they were convicted and are serving a prison sentence. The Center is located at The University of Texas School of Law, and began operations in August of 2003.

TCAI operates the Actual Innocence Clinic in cooperation with the UT School of Law. Law students screen and investigate claims of actual innocence under the supervision of the TCAI officers who also serve as co-directors of the Clinic. Students receive law school credit for participating in the Clinic.

TCAI uses a very strict definition of “actual innocence.”

TCAI defines it in two ways:

1. first, the inmate did not engage in the conduct for which he was convicted, nor did he participate with others in the conduct. In other words, it was a case of mistaken identification of the inmate as the perpetrator of the offense. Examples of situations in which the inmate might be “innocent” of the offense, but which would not qualify for “actual innocence” treatment would be claims of self-defense, defense of third persons, duress, or legal insanity. In each of those situations, the inmate was present and engaged in conduct that might or might not have violated the criminal law, depending upon the defense presented.

2. The second situation in which there might be a claim of actual innocence is a case of false accusation of the inmate as the perpetrator of an offense. In this situation, there was no conduct engaged in by the inmate that violated the criminal laws. The offense may or may not have been committed by somebody else. The most typical situations in which such claims occur are cases involving an accusation of sexual assault on a child.

The law attaches a strong presumption of finality to a criminal conviction. The conviction will be treated as final unless the inmate can show in one of two special ways that he or she is actually innocent.


Ed’s Note: The same is true for reviews and reversals of convictions by the Court of Appeals ('Direct Appeals'). The only way a Court of Appeals will (1) reverse. with (2) an order to acquit and dismiss, is if there was evidence withheld from the Jury that proves innocence, or there was Constitutional Error. The Constitutional error in my case was that there was no crime / no offence / violation of a penal statute.  'There was no conduct engaged in by violated the criminal laws.'