Pro Bono Web Development

Tyrone Noling

Tyrone Noling

Pro Bono Publico: {for the public good}

Recently I finished a pro bono web development project for the non-profit organization, The Innocence Project. I had been thinking about doing such a project for a while, but wasn’t sure as to which charity / non-profit I should work with and how to properly engage them.

So there I was one day, watching media coverage and looking at front-page articles all about the release of Amanda Knox. It was amazing live streaming coverage to watch as the verdicts were read and her convictions were overturned. As I live and work in the Seattle area, local media coverage of Amanda was significant ever since the story broke of this young Seattle college student, accused of murdering her British roommate in Perugia, Italy. But the news coverage on the day of her release was global; MSNBC, NY Times, The BBC, and everyone else were all covering this story live as it broke. Amanda ended up doing 4 years of a 26 year prison sentence and was exonerated that day.

It was during this event that I scrolled the web page down further, and found well below “the fold” a headline about a man who was released from a US prison after having done decades behind bars for a crime he was proven to have not committed via DNA evidence. It was of course The Innocence Project behind his release.

What struck me about this was the difference in coverage that Amanda Knox received vs. that of what this man received. If you compare the two stories, and ask the question around why was there such a difference in media coverage as well as national and global interest, you might conclude as I did that since Amanda is a white, attractive, young, female college student from a middle-upper class family in Seattle, her freedom and justice is worth more in the public eye than that of a black, late middle aged man from a poor background in middle or southern US. And, if that’s not the answer to the question posed, than what is?

After reading and watching coverage of both cases, I proceeded to The Innocence Project website and was amazed to read about case after case where they have assisted or driven the legal efforts to get wrongful convictions overturned. Most of their cases are death row inmates who came from poverty and have little to no financial resources for proper legal representation. I had definitely found something that I wanted to at least offer my services to. So I filled out a volunteer form online, listed my skills and went about my day… expecting to likely not hear back.

Weeks later, my phone lit up with a 212 area code number and as I was hoping to hear from a project I was trying to line up in NYC, completely spaced that this could be someone calling from The Innocence Project. It was. And they were calling to see if I was interested in offering my services for one of their clients, Tyrone Noling. I was beyond excited.

Tyrone has been on Ohio’s death row for over 15 years, for a crime he did not commit.  The request was that I work with Tyrone’s legal and communications team (attorney’s for The Innocence Project) to help build a website outlining the mass of information around Tyrone’s case to help in the effort to get Tyrone’s conviction overturned.

In the end, this was an exciting and fulfilling project to work on. While most projects I work on are focused heavily on aesthetic value, this project required me to focus on the content and specifically the proper organization of such large amounts of information. Collaborating with a team of attorneys and others working Tyrone’s case, all of whom I have never met and only connected with via email and the occasional call, was a great experience.

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2 thoughts on “Pro Bono Web Development

  1. James Fuller

    Just a note on the design, all of the pages with the exception of the Contact page don’t render correctly on an iPad.

    Otherwise, good of you to take on something you believe in.

  2. gregg Post author

    Thanks for the comment James and Good catch!

    Actually it’s the contact page that’s not rendering correctly though. For iPads and other smaller screen mobile devices, it was an intentional decision to move the right hand side column underneath the content column. Responsive if you will, but perhaps not the prettiest. The primary goal of the site was to keep the readers focus on the content, rather than the fluff (like images and Twitter feeds).

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