Barry C. Scheck (born New York City, NY, USA, September 19, 1949) is an American lawyer. He received national media attention while serving on O.J. Simpson’s defense team, helping to win an acquittal in the highly publicized murder case. Scheck is the director of the Innocence Project, which he co-founded with Peter Neufeld, and a professor at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, seven Federal Circuit (Appellate) Courts, the District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, as well as the States of New York and California.
In 1987, Scheck defended Hedda Nussbaum against the criminal charges brought against her in connection with the death of six-year-old Lisa Steinberg, and assisted in ensuring the arrest of Nussbaum’s partner, the girl’s father Joel Steinberg, as well as suing him in the civil case, Nussbaum vs. Steinberg. Scheck was part of the team that defended O.J. Simpson in his 1995 trial. He was associated with clearing in 1999 of Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson who had spent 11 years in prison of wrongful murder convictions, and he was also the lead lawyer who defended British au pair Louise Woodward in her 1997 murder trial.
More recently, he served as the attorney of the wrongly accused Duke University lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, representing him in a civil lawsuit filed on October 5, 2007 against the city of Durham, North Carolina, and its former district attorney, Mike Nifong. He also was responsible for clearing John Restivo, Dennis Halstead, and John Kogut after 18 years in prison for the 1985 Lynbrook rape and murder of Theresa Fusco, when DNA evidence proved them innocent and implicated others.
In 1992, Scheck co-founded the Innocence Project with Peter Neufeld, also his partner at the civil rights law firm of Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin LLP, and his co-counsel on the O.J. Simpson defense team. The Innocence Project is dedicated to the utilization of DNA evidence as a means to exculpate individuals of crimes for which they were wrongfully convicted. As of December 1, 2015, 334 wrongful convictions had been overturned by DNA testing thanks to the Project and other legal organizations. The Innocence Project does not use legal technicalities to challenge convictions; the Project accepts only cases in which newly discovered scientific evidence can potentially prove that a convicted person is factually innocent.
Scheck is a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Director of Clinical Education, Co-Director of the Trial Advocacy Programs, and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Ethics. He has also taught trial practice, appellate advocacy, legal ethics and forensic sciences to judges, lawyers and students at the National College of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA), and the NAACP annual training seminar for death penalty lawyers. He is a commissioner on New York’s Forensic Science Review Board, a body that regulates all of the state’s crime and forensic DNA laboratories, as well as first vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (from 2004–2005 he served as the organization’s president), and he serves on the board of the National Institute of Justice’s Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. Prior to settling into private practice, he worked as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of New York.
Barry Scheck is the recipient of numerous awards; including, most recently, the New York State Bar Association Gold Medal (2013) and the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). In 1996 he received the Robert C. Heeney Award, the “NACDL’s most prestigious award […] given annually to the one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association, and the legal profession.”
Major Awards and Honors
New York State Bar Association (USA)
- 2013: Gold Medal
National Trial Lawyers Association (USA)
- 2012: Lifetime Achievement Award
NACDL – National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (USA)
- 1996: Robert C. Heeney Award
Thomas Jefferson Foundation (USA)
- 2009: Medal in Law
New York Counsel of Defense Lawyers (USA)
- 2007: Norman S. Ostrow Award
University of Virginia School of Law (USA)
- 2006: William J. Brennan, Jr. Award
National Law Journal (USA)
- 2006: Listed as one of the U.S.’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers
- Foreword to DNA Exculpatory Cases Study Report National Institute of Justice (1996)
– With Peter Neufeld.
- Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted (2000)
– With Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer.
- The Innocents (2003)
– With Peter Neufeld and Taryn Simon.