Contact: Mark Mahoney Associate
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs Mmahoney@nysba.org
January 29, 2013
INNOCENCE PROJECT FOUNDERS BARRY SCHECK, PETER NEUFELD
RECEIVE NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION’S GOLD MEDAL
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, two of the nation’s most prominent
civil rights attorneys and the co-founders of the Innocence Project,
have received the New York State Bar Association’s Gold Medal, the
organization’s highest honor.
The award, given to individuals who exhibit lifelong excellence in the
legal profession and unparalleled civic contributions, was presented by
State Bar President Seymour W. James, Jr. on January 26 during the
President’s Dinner at the conclusion of the organization’s
136th Annual Meeting.
“The State Bar Association is pleased to honor Peter Neufeld,
Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project. Their groundbreaking work has
helped reverse many wrongful convictions and has raised awareness of the
systemic procedures and practices that have led to those
injustices,” said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York
James noted that the State Bar Association and the Innocence Project
held two joint Albany press conferences in 2012 to advocate for state
legislation to combat wrongful convictions.
In 1992, Scheck and Neufeld founded the Innocence Project at Benjamin N.
Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Since then, the Innocence
Project has helped free more than 300 wrongfully convicted prisoners,
including 18 who had been sentenced to death.
Both previously distinguished themselves through their work in civil
rights and criminal defense law, as well as for their expertise on the
scientific use of DNA in criminal investigations.
Scheck rose to national prominence in the Hedda Nussbaum case
involving a woman accused of killing a child in her care, while Neufeld
represented Abner Louima in the famous New York City police brutality
case in the mid-1990s. Both Neufeld and Scheck were members of the O.J.
Simpson defense team, as well as the lead attorneys on a number of
prominent civil rights cases.
They are founding partners of the New York City law firm of Neufeld
Scheck & Brustin, which specializes in constitutional civil rights
litigation and other complex civil matters. Scheck, of Queens, is a law
school graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Neufeld, of
Brooklyn, earned his law degree from New York University.
In 2000, Scheck, Neufeld and New York Times reporter Jim
Dwyer co-wrote, “Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and
Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted,” a book that drew
upon cases and stories from their organization.
Innocence Project and New York State Bar
Association Join Forces
The fight against wrongful convictions long has been a key component
of the State Bar Association’s legislative agenda. In 2009, the
report of its Task Force on Wrongful Convictions put the spotlight on 53
wrongful convictions in New York since 1964 and recommended changes to
reduce the number of instances.
Under President James and Immediate Past State Bar President Vincent
E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo), the Bar Association has
continued to seek state legislation requiring the videotaping of police
interrogations and changes to police lineup procedures to ensure more
accurate identification of suspects.
In March 2012, and again in May, the Innocence Project and the New
York State Bar Association held joint press conferences on wrongful
“If lawmakers are serious about their desire to prevent
wrongful convictions and improve public safety, they will pass a reform
package that improves police investigation practices to ensure that the
right person is convicted,” Neufeld said in March, explaining that
expanding the state DNA database alone will not address the underlying
causes of wrongful convictions.
During the second press conference in May, Scheck also called on
state lawmakers to go beyond expanding the DNA database.
“If they are really concerned about protecting the
innocent,” Scheck said, “they will pass legislation this
session to prevent misidentifications and false confessions, two of the
leading causes of wrongful convictions. These reforms help protect all
New Yorkers, from crime victims to innocent suspects, to the public at
large because they enhance the ability of police to find the real
Past winners of the State Bar’s Gold Medal include U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra
Day O’Connor, former state Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and former
Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau.
The New York State Bar Association, with 76,000 members, is the
largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993