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Scheck, Barry

SCHECK, BARRY

SCHECK, BARRY (1949– ), U.S. lawyer. Born in Queens, ny, and raised in Manhattan, Scheck, the son of a television producer and entertainers' representative, graduated from Yale University. He was politically active in the "Dump Johnson" movement of the late 1960s before going to the University of California Boalt Hall School of Law in Berkeley, where he worked for the United Farm Workers Union. Scheck became a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, New York City's law firm for the poor, in the Bronx. There he met a fellow lawyer, Peter Neufeld, who would become his best friend. After three years with Legal Aid, Scheck joined the faculty of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he and Neufeld in 1992 founded the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that seeks the release of wrongly convicted individuals through dna testing. The Innocence Project relies on students to handle case work under the supervision of a team of lawyers. The lawyers screen cases to determine whether postconviction testing of dna, the genetic material found in all human cells, can yield conclusive proof of innocence. Although dna testing of crime scene evidence had been used since the late 1980s, it was not until the end of the 20th century that significant advances in the technology made it possible to examine minute specimens. The Innocence Project, by the early years of the 21st century, had helped to exonerate more than 80 people and was working on hundreds of other cases. Scheck was the dna expert on the team of lawyers defending O.J. Simpson, the former football star, who was found not guilty of murder in a celebrated trial in the 1990s. Scheck and Neufeld were partners with the late Johnnie Cochran in a small civil rights law firm in Manhattan. The firm represented Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was allegedly sodomized by New York City police officers in 1997. In 2003 the Innocence Project spawned the Life After Exoneration Project, to help the wrongly convicted after they were out of prison. Scheck and Neufeld, with Jim Dwyer, were the authors of Actual Innocence (2000), which recounted the stories of some of the people they helped free. Inspired by the Innocence Project, about 30 similar organizations formed around the country at law schools, journalism schools, undergraduate college, and public defenders' offices.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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