About the project
In Project Reasonable Doubt, groups of students investigate closed criminal cases in which there are doubts regarding the conviction.
The Project has the purpose to do the three things universities, at least Dutch universities, exist for: to educate, to do research and to provide a service to society. In a quick sketch: in the Project we study cases in which there seem to be indications that the defendant has been wrongly convicted, for a crime he did not commit or for a crime that has not taken place. The case, if accepted, is studied by a group of student under strict guidance of the Project staff. After their analysis, it is, in principle, the plan to write a booklet on each case and publish it, whether the defendant might or might not be wrongfully convicted. The products of the work of the students are subsequently used as input for research, either for generating research ideas, or as studies on their own. In some of the finalized cases, our analysis provides the basis for an argument to reopen the case and acquit the defendant after all. The latter, however, is the task of the attorney to the convict; the Project produces not more than a solid analysis.
Project Reasonable Doubt is based at VU University Amsterdam. The project is led by Professor Peter van Koppen and coordinated by Dr. Annelies Vredeveldt. Groups are also regularly supervised by Dr. Jasper van der Kemp, Dr. André de Zutter, Dr. Maarten Bolhuis, Abhijit Das and Guillaume Beijers.
For convicted suspects
To ensure that we select only cases that are potentially miscarriages of justice, the project has a number of eligibility criteria:
- Almost anybody – convict, attorney, or anyone else involved – can apply for the inclusion of a case in the Project.
- The application must be submitted in writing. For more information, see Submitting a case.
- The convicted suspect must be convicted with a final decision without possibility to appeal on factual grounds.
- The convicted suspect must have been convicted to a prison term of at least four years, or a shorter prison sentence in combination with detention under hospital orders (TBS).
- The convicted suspect must claim that he/she was convicted wrongly and that the crime was committed by someone else, or that no crime took place. Cases in which the convicted suspect claims that he did not commit the crime, but was involved in some other manner, are not eligible for Project Reasonable Doubt. Cases in which the convicted suspect claims that the crime was committed in a different way than the court assumed or was qualified incorrectly by the court (for example, murder instead of manslaughter) are similarly ineligible. The convict may have confessed in an earlier stage of the proceedings, as for instance to the police, but must have maintained his innocence at trial.
- Project Reasonable Doubt must gain access to the complete case file, or at least to all documents that were available to the defense.
- The convicted suspect and his attorney must sign a statement in which they agree irrevocably to an investigation by the Project and will give the Project all required information.
- The convicted suspect and his attorney must consent to a publication about the case. In publications, we strive to maintain anonymity as much as possible.
- Only after an initial reading of the case file, a final decision will be taken on whether the case will be taken up by the Project. In our decision, we take the following points into account:
a. It must be a case in which on first sight the staff of the Project suspect that there is a possibility of a wrongful conviction.
b. The case must be expected to contribute to knowledge of legal decision-making.
c. The case must be such that students, led by the staff of the Project, can conduct a solid investigation within in a reasonable time frame.
d. There must be no conflict of interest for any of the staff members of the Project.
- Cases will be taken up by the Project only if there is sufficient capacity.
- Cases can be refused without specification of reason.
- The Project does nothing more than reporting on its solid investigation of the case. Any future actions, such as pleas to reopen the case, fall outside the scope of the Project.
Does your case meet the above requirements? If so, you can submit your case here.
Do you have any further questions? Please contact the project coordinator, Dr. Annelies Vredeveldt.
Only students who speak Dutch fluently can be accepted for Project Reasonable Doubt. This is because the students need to be able to analyse Dutch case files and have in-depth discussions about the case in Dutch. If you do speak Dutch, please refer to the Dutch version of this webpage.