New name, same mission.

Wofford’s Law, Justice and Innocence Initiative has been rebranded as the South Carolina Innocence Initiative to reflect the statewide interest the year-old organization has generated. The initiative aims to raise awareness about wrongful convictions through education, outreach and advocacy.

Gracie Hicks ’23, a co-founder of the organization, who is currently attending the University of South Carolina School of Law, was the first to suggest the name change.

“She actually suggested it before she graduated,” says Dr. Dawn McQuiston, professor of psychology and director of the initiative. “Over the course of past year, seeing not only the great student interest but the momentum we have gained based on attention from the legal community led us to think much bigger than we originally planned.”

McQuiston has an ambitious agenda for the initiative this academic year, culminating with its inaugural South Carolina Innocence and Justice Conference in May 2024. The regional conference will be the first of its kind in South Carolina and will focus on client advocacy in preventing wrongful convictions, strategies to investigate cases post-conviction and a path forward to reimagine innocence efforts in the state.

The initiative will have other events along the way, starting on Thursday, Sept. 28, when it hosts a discussion on the Georgia Innocence Project’s efforts to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals. Georgia Innocence Project attorney Isabel Corngold will join the event virtually to discuss how innocence claims are screened, investigated and litigated; challenges associated with preventing and correcting wrongful convictions; and recently freed individuals. The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. in Room 109 of the Chandler Center for Environmental Studies. Lunch will be provided.

“This will be a great educational event involving the nuts and bolts of how an innocence project operates and what challenges are often faced in post-conviction work,” says McQuiston.

On Oct. 16, the initiative will host a screening of "The Worst Crime," a documentary focusing on crime, punishment and mental competency, followed by a panel discussion. The panel includes the Rev. Hillary Taylor, executive director of South Carolina Alternatives for the Death Penalty; former death row inmate Jimmy MacPhee, now a writer, speaker and mentor to young prisoners and the founder of On the Rock Ministries; and Chelsea McNeil, 8th judicial circuit public defender.

The event begins at 5:15 p.m. in McMillan Theater in the Mungo Student Center. Dinner will be provided.