CINCINNATI -- A $15 million donation to the Ohio Innocence Project from Cincinnati philanthropist Richard "Dick" Rosenthal is the largest gift ever given to the University of Cincinnati College of Law -- and the largest ever for any innocence program in the country.
The donation, announced Tuesday, will fund the Ohio Innocence Project at the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice in perpetuity. Rosenthal and his late wife gave $1 million in 2004 to create and endow the institute, and the Innocence Project is its primary focus.
About 20 law school students participate in the program each year, digging through files, interviewing witnesses, writing case briefs and applying their knowledge of forensic techniques such as DNA testing. To date, they've helped free 24 people who were wrongfully imprisoned.
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"The Ohio Innocence Project has a laudable mission: to free every innocent person in Ohio," Rosenthal said in a statement. "I'm proud to help ensure its life-saving work continues now and forever."
The $15 million gift will boost recruitment of top students and faculty and support the Innocence Project's programming. The law school will add three Lois and Richard Rosenthal Clinical Professors of Law, and students will be called Rosenthal Student Fellows.
The Innocence Project will work out of a custom-designed, named space in the new law school building with upgraded work spaces, offices and technology.
Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the New York City-based Innocence Project, called UC's program a national model.
"The incredible success of UC's Ohio Innocence Project has been made possible through the vision and generosity of Dick Rosenthal," UC Foundation President Rodney Grabowski said. "He has helped provide a life-changing service to our community and freed 24 individuals from wrongful imprisonment. We are forever grateful."
Mayor John Cranley, who helped create the Ohio Innocence Project in 2003, said the program wouldn't have been able to accomplish so much without the Rosenthals' support.
"Their kindness will go a long way towards exonerating the wrongfully convicted and funding advocacy efforts," he said in a statement. "As a co-founder of this project, I am truly grateful to the Rosenthal family for believing in this cause from the very beginning."