By Frederick H. Lowe
Christina Swarns, president and attorney-in-charge of the Office of the Appellate Defender, a New York-based institutional provider of appellate defense representation for the indigent, has been named executive director of the Innocence Project.
Swarns, who will assume her new position September 8, succeeds Maddy deLone, who served as the Innocence Project’s executive director for 15 years.
“I am thrilled and humbled to be joining the Innocence Project,” said Swarns. “This organization and its amazing staff created the roadmap for not only freeing the innocent, but also implementing the structural reforms necessary to prevent wrongful convictions and improve the administration of justice for everyone.”
Swarns has a lengthy legal resume. Prior to joining the Office of the Appellate Defender, she spent more than a decade at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund where she served as LDF’s litigation director.
Before joining LDF, Swarns served as a supervising assistant federal defender and assistant federal defender at the Capital Habeas Unit of Philadelphia’s Federal Community Defender Office. She began her career as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division in New York.
She is one a few black women who has argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Swarns argued and won Buck v. Davis.
The Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision reversed the death sentence of the defendant Duane Buck in 2017 after his attorney introduced an expert witness who suggested that Buck would be more likely to commit violent acts in the future because he was black. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court’s majority opinion.
“Christina Swarns is the ideal person to lead the Innocence Project into its next phase as we advance our mission to overturn wrongful convictions and reform the criminal justice system,” said Jack Taylor, chairman of the Innocence Project’s Board of Directors.
Attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld founded the Innocence Project nearly 30 years ago to challenge wrongful convictions and to change the justice system.
Swarns is 1993 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.