Wrongfully convicted man starts new project to help exonerees re-enter society | News

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A man who spent time behind bars for a Louisville crime he didn’t commit is now using his experience to help others in similar situations.

Edwin Chandler was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1995. He spent nearly a decade in prison before new technology helped prove his innocence in 2009.

Now he’s working to help others also wrongfully convicted get back into society.

“We have exonerees popping up every day, you see it in your news, every — almost on a daily basis,” said Chandler. “And so what do you do? You know, what are we doing to help those people once they get out and try to get their lives back together?”

Edwin Chandler considers the near decade spent in prison the “lost years” — precious time he’ll never get back.

“I’m starting to get emotional, because I just understand the damage and the totality that this has done, that this has taken from me,” said Chandler.

He says for the wrongfully convicted, there’s no program to help them transition back to society.

“When I got out of prison. It just wasn’t there. I didn’t have, you know, I didn’t have a path, I didn’t have anybody to look up to, I didn’t have a lot of things coming out of prison,” Chandler said. “And even more so because I didn’t do anything to be in prison – that’s the factor.” 

Now he’s launched The Chandler Project, celebrating with a fundraiser at the Palm Room in Louisville.

The nonprofit that focuses on educating people about wrongful convictions, and providing fellow exonerees an easier path back into society.

“I’ve bridged that gap in that and I want to be able to show other exonerees that they can bridge that gap as well. I want to be able to show them that they can be empowered the same way that I’ve empowered myself to be successful,” said Chandler.

“Wrongful convictions is not a one person issue. Wrongful conviction is a human issue and an issue of justice and wrongful convictions can happen to anybody,” said Johnetta Carr.

Carr, who was charged in a Louisville murder when she was 16, was pardoned by former Governor Matt Bevin in 2019 with help from the Kentucky Innocence Project.

Since then, she’s been doing some advocacy work of her own, supporting a Kentucky wrongful conviction compensation bill, House Bill 691, to ensure exonerees get some monetary relief.

Seeing others like Chandler tackling this topic and raising awareness gives her hope.

“I’m excited about the Chandler Project, because we definitely need that resource in Kentucky for exonerees,” said Carr. “So, I’m excited about the chandler project and I’m excited about the work that I’m doing. I’m excited about all the work that all the exonerees are doing.” 

Chandler hopes his project will become a household name, and lay the groundwork for a better future for all.

“I want people to understand that, the justice system is flawed, but we can fix it. We’re able to do that,” said Chandler. “And that’s what I’m doing now. It starts right here.”

He hopes as his project grows, so will awareness. 

“When we can share our stories and make the public aware of what we’ve been through and what we’re trying to do, I think it’s going to go over really well,” said Chandler. “There’s no way that I would have known how much of a magnitude my life would be playing in other people’s lives, and that means a lot to me, you know, it’s really amazing. It’s a great feeling. And so I’m grateful, and I’m thankful, to be here today.”

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