Wrongful Conviction Externship

Keithcooper1 Wrongfully convicted man Keith Cooper discussed his long road to exoneration at Notre Dame Law School on April 12, 2017. Read more here.

The Wrongful Conviction Externship provides students real-world lawyering experience representing and advising clients believed to have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. These lawyering tasks will be conducted under the supervision of a staff attorney with the Exoneration Project in Chicago, Illinois. In the classroom component, students will examine the principal causes of wrongful convictions, the application of those causes to the cases assigned to the students, proposed solutions to prevent wrongful convictions in the future, and related ethical issues. A member of the law faculty will be responsible for the overall supervision of the externship and conducting the classroom component.

Students will engage in legal research and writing, conduct client and witness interviews, develop a case plan, draft motions for DNA testing, and draft petitions for post-conviction relief, including federal habeas corpus petitions. Additionally, students will examine trial transcripts, police reports, forensic reports, witness statements, court documents, and other evidence to determine if the defendant was wrongfully convicted. Students will participate in client interviews at the state penitentiary to elicit evidence about the commission of the crime and criminal proceedings. Students will also participate in identifying, locating, and interviewing witnesses (e.g., eyewitnesses, alibi and corroboration witnesses) who could provide evidence to support defendant’s claims.

At the conclusion of the investigation, each student will develop a theory of the case and case plan for obtaining post-conviction relief. The case plan shall include: (1) a factual statement of the case; (2) the client’s version and claims; (3) a witness chart; (4) legal issues for research; and (5) student goals for client representation during the semester. Students will also have an opportunity to participate in courtroom proceedings under the supervision of a state-licensed attorney.

Instructor: Jimmy Gurulé