Thursday, April 17, 2008
DNA evidence has already freed dozens of wrongfully convicted prisoners around the country, and that’s one reason Michigan Law’s new Innocence Clinic, opening in January, will focus on a potentially far larger group: prisoners convicted in cases where biological evidence like DNA doesn’t exist.
The new clinic will be headed by CrimProf Bridget McCormack, the Law School’s associate dean for clinical affairs, and Professor David Moran, who will join the faculty this fall as a clinical professor. Between eight and 14 law students each term will have the opportunity to work on convictions for a wide variety of crimes that appear unjust and in need of reversal.
Moran, who comes to Michigan from a position as associate dean of the Wayne State University Law School, helped found Cooley Law School’s Michigan Innocence Project in 2000. He has always believed that group’s concentration on DNA reversals could be augmented by looking at cases that relied on other types of evidence, in part because DNA is not often recovered in armed robberies, burglaries, assaults, and other less-serious crimes. And Moran says prisoners convicted of those crimes are at least as likely to be innocent as people convicted of rape or murder – which are usually both more intensively investigated and much more likely to yield biological evidence.
McCormack and Moran, for example, have been working together on a case involving two men who were convicted of a shooting and imprisoned after the judge ignored two eyewitnesses – and five other witnesses – who contradicted a victim who, later, also recanted.
“This clinic will provide students the opportunity to work on complex post-conviction cases, with litigation in the state and federal courts,” McCormack said. “The cases will be fact- and investigation-intensive, and will provide students with opportunities outside the courtroom as well as in working with media and public officials.” [Mark Godsey]