© 1998-2015 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

© 1998-2016 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

This conference was Held on Nov 5-7, 2010

Women and Innocence Conference 2010

November 5, 6 and 7, 2010

Somerset Inn

2601 W. Big Beaver Rd.

Troy, Michigan

This is the first conference in the United States devoted to the issue of wrongly convicted women!


Although more than 10% of exonerated persons are women, the issues of how and why innocent women are wrongly convicted has largely been ignored, including the impact of their imprisonment on their children.

This conference brings together for the first time, a diverse collection of speakers from around the United States who have knowledge and first-hand experience of the special issues faced by a woman who is wrongly prosecuted and convicted of a serious crime. This conference is intended to  for you if you are a woman (or man) who has been wrongly prosecuted or convicted, a concerned person or activist, you are curious about issues that involve women, or you want to learn how you can help the plight of innocent women.


Friday 5th

3pm – Arrival and register at the Somerset Inn

3:30-5:30 – Welcome Tea at Kate Spade's in Somerset Mall

6pm – Welcome Dinner “How Words Can Heal the Wrongly Convicted Woman” Diane Fanning, Author

7pm – "Taking Care of Ourselves" Lori Pease, Not Alone

8pm – Spa/Massage Time

Saturday 6th

9am  Breakfast – “Taking that Step of Faith” Gloria Goodwin-Killian, exoneree (California)

10am – "The Women Who Defended Me and Why it Mattered that They Were Women" Ken Wyniemko, exoneree (Michigan)

11am – "Why non DNA cases must remain a focus of Innocence work" Joyce Ann Brown,exoneree (Texas)

12pm  Lunch – "An Incarcerated Reality" Jennifer Cobbina, Michigan State University

1pm – “Yes We Can! One woman’s Journey into the Field of Innocence” Laura Caldwell, Life After Innocence, Loyola University

2pm – "A story of wrongful conviction at a very high price" Jody Ortiz, Author

2:30pm – "How Letters Mingle Souls"  Julie Rea Harper, exoneree (Illinois)

3pm  – “Mapping Our Path” Kathryn Branham, Proving Innocence

4-6pm – Activity of your choice – Suggestions provided . . .     -

6pm  Dinner – “How the Female Client is Unique” Karen Daniel, Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions

7pm  – “Cathartic Expressions from the Mothers of the Wrongfully Convicted” Jane Rea and Camille Tilley

8pm – Round table displays of Pre-exonerees

Sunday 7th

9am  Breakfast – “Making Sense of It All and Moving Forward” Zieva Konvisser, PhD

10am – Mingle and Mix . . . before leaving . . .

11am – Sendoff


(listed in alphabetical order)

Kathryn Branham is the president of Proving Innocence, a recently established program in Michigan which is actively pursuing the rights of those whom haven’t been given fair treatment by the laws which should have served to do just that: defend their lack of guilt. Their advisory board contains a senator, retired judge, forensic psychologist as well as exonerees and attorneys. Their goals include supporting the innocent to freedom from wrongful convictions as well as educating the public about the existence of such people in our prisons. Ms. Branham will facilitate our efforts forward as she shares about her own experience within this new organization.

Joyce Ann Brown is an exoneree and author who has written about her experience in Justice Denied. She says she is excited this conference is finally bringing people together to talk about some of the critical issues she has been speaking about constantly because her concerns have been growing for years. Women and some men, she says, who don't represent DNA cases are being overlooked and will continue to fall through the cracks, even though their cases are clearly cases of wrongful convictions, because they aren't the easy one for science to solve. She will be sharing her thoughts along these lines and bringing her book for us to acquire as we can see her heartbreaking account turn into a passionate voice of one more woman who is doing all she can for the cause of justice.

Laura Caldwell is an author, an attorney, and leads a program at Loyola University Law School called Life After Innocence. She has pioneered many aspects of that program and comes to the field of Innocence from an entirely different walk of life. And like many of us, she was brought there by a whirlwind, unexpected. She shares why we can do what we weren’t expecting to, and why we must! Her very nature is energizing and she cannot help but inspire us to scale the insurmountable mountain only to find ourselves atop it. She will share from her own struggles, how she has done just that.

Jennifer Cobbina is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the School of Criminal Justice. Her research interests focus on women in correctional institutions, prisoner reentry, and the factors that shape desistance from crime, reintegration, and recidivism. She reviewed the book Interrupted Life and will bring an informative session for us to consider. She will share some of what she feels is critical to help us further understand how being in a prison impacts a woman. Prison is a culture and reality unto itself. We will see this as she shares this from interview excerpts of the lives and experiences of incarcerated and paroled women who have known what prison life entails and how it affects the heart and soul.

Karen Daniel is actively fighting on the front lines in the war on wrongful convictions at Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions and has a history of success freeing clients of both genders. She is uniquely gifted supporting the emotional needs of her clients as well as fighting on the legal front. She will take time to share with us what she has learned about the particular experiences she has had with women clients. This is a woman anyone would be fortunate to have on his/her side in any battle. We'll hear how she has experienced some of the toughest wars in the legal system and won them.

Diane Fanning is an American crime writer who has authored over sixteen books. Some of these have resulted in the continuing investigation of crimes and she has been called on to testify in murder trials regarding her research. She has also walked her own road of healing and finding ways to make peace with the harder facets of life, and will suggest that while we all have a choice in most aspects of life, sometimes we are only able to choose how to describe the facts which remain. And sometimes she says, that's enough to matter.

Julie Rea Harper an exoneree, trained as an educational psychologist and counselor, has begun healing. She has seen firsthand how the system can both fail - and then correct itself - when people who believe in its ability to render a just verdict force it to be brought. She was acquitted in a second trial where Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions and Ron Safer [Schiff Hardin, LLP] represented her, in 2006. She is now trying to rebuild her life while increasing societal awareness of false presumptions about how the justice system, law enforcement and our right to be presumed innocence in America really work. Ms. Harper is the organizer of the Women and Innocence Conference.

Zieva Dauber Konvisser is a Ph.D. in human development and the author of the forthcoming book  Surviving Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing. Her current research focuses on the human impact of challenging life crises, including terrorism and wrongful conviction. She is driven by a commitment to make a positive difference in people’s lives and the communities in which they live and work. She has found that, while survivors of challenging life crises may suffer from posttraumatic stress symptoms, they also can grow or thrive after struggling with the crises. She is herself, one who lives reflectively, and finds that she enjoys very much working with those who are hopeful and have created meaning out of even the most difficult life experiences. She will be sharing with us how we can best empower ourselves to be change agents in trying times and under trying circumstances.

Gloria Goodwin-Killian is an exoneree and has become an activist widely known for her successful presentation of current issues and needs of those who have been wrongly convicted and are being dismissed by the system. She spent a lot of years finding out how desperately we need reform in the prisons and when she was exonerated she didn't forget those women she left behind! She now fights both for the innocent who are in prison and for those who are guilty and in prison but not being humanely treated. She will tell us how she stays open and active while caring for her own walk as a survivor and what it takes to overcome the challenges of being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

Jody Ortiz is the author of The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn; a book about her efforts to understand and detail the work she has done with the case of Raye Dawn Smith. She will share with us how her efforts to seek justice brought about a rash of threats, violence, and facets of life changing challenges in her own life. Through this experience she has learned that in order to see justice done one must be willing to pay unexpected prices. She is also a board member of Survivors in Action, a non-profit national advocacy group that supports victims and the families of victims of any crime, including domestic violence, identity theft, elder abuse, cyber-stalking, stalking, child abuse, rape, and sexual assault.

Register by emailing Julie Rea-Harper at, juliereaharper@sbcglobal.net. Cost is $150 for the conference events, meals, and spa (massage) treatment, which you can mail or pay upon arrival. The cost will be adjusted if you don’t want the spa/massage or can only attend on Friday (Nov. 5) or Saturday (Nov. 6). There will be speakers during the meals, so they are a part of the conference. Please email any questions to Julie Rea-Harper. Click here to see the official conference website.

You can book your room directly at the Somerset Inn with a credit card. Rooms are $79 a night, plus tax. Request either one queen or two double beds, and you must indicate that you are booking with our conference for this special rate. Click here to reserve your room online. Or call the Somerset Inn  at (248) 643-7800 or (800) 228-8769. Click here for a Google map of the Somerset Inn, 2601 W. Big Beaver Rd. in Troy, MI. It is located 1/2 mile east of Interstate 75 near The Somerset Collection Shopping Center.

The Somerset Inn is 36 miles from the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. This is a Google map with driving directions from the airport to the Somerset Inn.

If you want to help by donating to help an exoneree attend the conference please email Julie Rea-Harper!


Sponsors include     Action Committee for Women in Prison      Robert and Moira Fitch     Death Penalty Focus     Ta Gloria     Emmanuel Presbyterian Church Prison Ministry      Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena CA      Exoneree Project University of Texas at Arlington     The Men in the Texas Exoneree Project in Dallas     Constance H. Smith    Kate Kaufman   Luke Hayden Charles     Sam Bernstein   


(listed in alphabetical order)

Lori Paese is an attorney who has learned the hard way what happens to you when you don't take care of yourself: you can't give to other causes either! She will share with us how she became aware of the importance of being able to build healthy boundaries and what a difference this makes not only in your personal life but also in your professional life. She now advocates for those who need a place to live and basic needs to be met while also offering her professional services free of charge to women who want to give back but don't know how to get started.

Jane Rea is a retired school teacher and pastor’s wife whose grandson was killed and daughter wrongly incarcerated for the crime which Jane well knew Julie had not committed. She will share, along with Camille Tilley, about her experience as a mother fighting for her daughter’s innocence and living through the nightmare as the one on the outside looking in.

Camille Tilley is the mother of Courtney Bisbee, a school nurse, who was falsely accused by one 13 year old in an alleged incident of child molestation. Courtney was wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned for an alleged crime that never happened, in Scottsdale, Arizona. She was sentenced in 2006, to 11 years flat time. New Evidence - proof of her innocence - came forward in 2006 with the recantation by an older brother, who said his mother coerced him to lie. His mother and brother wanted to sue the Paradise Valley School district for money, as well as sue Courtney, whom they perceived as having money. Courtney's Petition for Review has been in Arizona's Court of Appeals since October, 2009. For more information please go to these websites and see Free Courtney Bisbee http://www.justice4courtney.com and Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted, a grassroots national Innocence Movement that Camille helped found in 2009. To be held at State Capitols and cities across America: Oct. 2, 2010. http://FreedomMarchUSA.org.

Ken Wyniemko served nine years in Michigan for a rape he didn’t commit. Ken is a member of The Board of Commissioners of The Innocence Project at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing. He is on the Board of Advisors for Proving Innocence, which was founded by Bill Proctor of Channel 7 News and former Detroit Mayor and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Dennis Archer. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the newly formed Michigan Innocence Clinic, based at the University of Michigan. And in recognition of his efforts to help the wrongfully convicted and his work on behalf of The Innocence Project, he has been named an honorary member of CDAM, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.

© 1998-2016 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)

© 1998-2016 The Justice Institute -- (Justice Denied is a trade name of The Justice Institute)