Faculty: Professor Michele Nethercott
The ongoing revelations over the last decade of the number of individuals who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit have led to some profound rethinking about the nature of our criminal justice system. Nationwide, law students in Innocence Projects have worked to free hundreds of wrongly convicted inmates, giving them their lives back after years of unjust incarceration.
In 2008, the University of Baltimore School of Law and the Maryland Office of the Public Defender collaborated on the creation of an Innocence Project Clinic. The clinic seeks to identify individuals who have been convicted in Maryland state courts of crimes they did not commit and to provide them with assistance in the investigation of their claims. In appropriate cases, representation will be provided in post-trial litigation efforts to secure exonerations. The clinic is run by an experienced criminal defense attorney with expertise in DNA and other forms of scientific evidence who has secured the exoneration of numerous individuals in the course of her career.
Students in the IPC interview witnesses, clients and potential clients. They also conduct factual investigation, draft motions and briefs, and negotiate and argue motions in trial courts. In the process, they develop skills in interviewing, fact investigation, and negotiation and trial preparation, as well as collaboration and problem-solving. Students have the opportunity to work with experts in the fields of forensic DNA testing, forensic pathology and various other scientific disciplines. The clinic handles cases that involve DNA testing as well as those cases that rely solely on factual reinvestigation of the underlying crime to obtain exonerating evidence.
The IPC's successes include the 2010 exoneration of Tyrone Jones, who served 10 years for a murder he did not commit. Students uncovered evidence showing that the eyewitness who at trial identified Jones as the assailant who shot the victim had not in fact seen the shooting.
Students also assisted in the legislative effort to assist the wrongly convicted by providing a procedural mechanism to present newly discovered evidence that supports a claim of factual innocence. These efforts ultimately culminated in the enactment of the Writ of Actual Innocence by the Maryland legislature in 2010.
Co- or prerequisite: Professional Responsibility
The Innocence Project Clinic selects its students through the lottery process.