As attorneys, we vigorously represent the interests of our clients to redress their wrongs. When possible we also seek to improve society in other ways, such as through charitable giving. Recently, Helmer, Martins, Tate & Garrett attorney James B. Helmer, Jr. provided financial assistance to one particular group of persons in need: those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes.

“The needs of the wrongfully convicted can never be fully satisfied,” according to Mr. Helmer.

While the criminal justice system is designed to prevent innocent people from being convicted of crimes, it unfortunately happens. Across the country, innocence projects have been working to free and overturn wrongful convictions. For those fortunate enough to be freed from wrongful prison sentences, they face many hurdles when reacclimating to society.

Working with the University of Cincinnati Law School’s Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), Mr. Helmer provides financial assistance to those whose lives have been affected by the injustice of wrongful convictions. Mr. Helmer’s donations are made by the newly-established James B. Helmer, Jr. Wrongfully Convicted Assistance Fund.

The power of this fund was demonstrated by a recent court victory for one OIP client, Mr. Roger “Dean” Gillispie. Despite always maintaining his innocence, Mr. Gillispie was wrongfully convicted and served 20 years for kidnapping and rapes he did not commit. OIP freed him in 2011. In November 2022, a jury awarded Mr. Gillispie $45 million for his wrongful conviction and incarceration. Before Mr. Gillispie obtained the civil judgment for his years of damages, donations from the James B. Helmer, Jr. Wrongfully Convicted Assistance Fund provided a loan to Mr. Gillispie to help him live.

It is the hope of Mr. Helmer that many more exonerees will benefit from his generosity. But hopefully, one day, there won’t be a need for the fund at all—a day when no more persons are wrongfully convicted of crimes by our justice system.