UA student organizations hosting a conversation about capital punishment and wrongful conviction


Since 1973, more than 170 people in the U.S. have been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. However, every wrongfully convicted death row inmate won’t be fortunate enough to receive exoneration. With the state of Ohio’s death penalty, wrongful convictions can mean the life or death of an innocent man or woman. Dr. Daniela Jauk and Dr. Insun Park, both assistant professors of sociology and criminal justice, looked at these facts and were inspired to make UA part of a change for the better by bringing the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) to the UA campus in 2019 as an official student organization. OIP is a nonprofit organization that has led to the release of 30 wrongfully convicted Ohioans since 2003.

Since UA OIP’s inception, the student organization decided to team up with UA’s Sociology Club to develop their first public informational event on the subject of wrongful convictions, systemic racism, and the death penalty. With Jaak and Park holding joint appointments and co-advising both student groups, they were able to unite these devoted student organizations.

The free virtual event, “Executing the Innocent: A Conversation about Capital Punishment and Wrongful Convictions,” features a panel that includes Margery B. Koosed, UA professor of law emeritus; the president of OIP-u Akron Tanisha Perara; the president of UA’s Sociology Club Garrett Decker; and two death row exonerees, Kwane Ajuma and Rickey Jackson.

Ajuma and Jackson, and Ajuma’s brother, Wiley Bridgeman, were wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1975. Jackson served 39 years in prison — at the time, this was the longest served prison term for an exonerated defendant in American history.

In explaining why UA’s Sociology Club got involved, Decker said, “I jumped at the opportunity immediately. We don’t have much of a voice. But there are times when we do, and hosting events like this is a prime example of attempting to start a conversation that will hopefully spark change. The Sociology Club focuses on our students’ view and role in society, and social inequalities such as wrongful convictions and capital punishment are a long debated social wrong.”

The public event is co-sponsored by the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Criminal Justice Studies, the School of Law, Tiffin University, Ohioans to Stop Executions, Witness to Innocence and the Ohio Innocence Project. The event takes place from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, and guests can RSVP online to receive the event link. For questions or a recording of the event, contact Tanisha Perera, UA OIP president, at or Dr. Daniela Jauk at

Story by Madeline Myers

Media contact: Lisa Craig, 330-972-7429 or