ND Law EJC director Jimmy Gurulé to address Consular Summit in Mexico City on wrongful convictions


Author: Doerr, Sarah

Elvia Yolanda Martínez Cosío, Vanessa Calva Ruiz, Jimmy Gurulé, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, and Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil signing the letter of intent last fall.
Elvia Yolanda Martínez Cosío, Vanessa Calva Ruiz, Jimmy Gurulé, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, and Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil signing the letter of intent last fall.

Notre Dame Law Professor Jimmy Gurulé, who serves as the director of the Exoneration Justice Clinic (EJC), will speak at the Second Annual Summit of Consuls for the Protection of the Mexican Consular Network in North America in Mexico City on February 27, 2024.

Last fall Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarded a $3 million grant to the Exoneration Justice Clinic for the Program for the Defense of Mexican Nationals in Criminal Matters in the United States (PDM). This program involves a collaborative effort between the Exoneration Justice Clinic, Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and more than 50 Mexican Consulate Offices across the country in an effort to identify and overturn the wrongful convictions of Mexican nationals in the U.S.

During the Summit, Gurulé will discuss the scope of wrongful convictions in the U.S., the structural problems of the U.S. criminal justice system, and the major causes of wrongful convictions. Gurulé will train consulate officers on how to screen wrongful conviction cases and identify viable cases to recommend to the EJC for legal representation. This information-training session is the first step in implementing the PDM on a national scale.

According to Gurulé, Mexican nationals are particularly vulnerable to wrongful convictions as a result of a potential language barrier and a lack of familiarity with the U.S. justice system and their own rights within it. The Mexican government, in recognition of and response to this major systemic problem, awarded the grant to the Exoneration Justice Clinic.

”Mexican nationals are extremely vulnerable to being falsely arrested and wrongfully convicted for crimes they did not commit,” Gurulé stated. “These individuals are entitled to the rights and protections afforded under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to effective legal representation,” he stated. The PDM will provide the necessary funds and resources to fully investigate and litigate these cases in court.

Elvia Yolanda Martínez Cosío, Vanessa Calva Ruiz, Jimmy Gurulé, Roberto Velasco Álvarez, and Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil signing the letter of intent last fall.
 Liz Rulli, associate vice president for research, and Ambassador Reyna Torres after signing the official MOU at the Law School in December 2023.

The three-year program takes a two-pronged approach to addressing wrongful convictions of Mexican nationals. The first aspect involves evaluating cases for actual innocence. To that end, the Mexican consulate offices will play a major role in the initial screening of these cases. Second, once a case is accepted for legal representation, PDM funds will be used to pay for a full-time investigator, staff lawyer, and retain local counsel to investigate and litigate these wrongful conviction cases nationwide.

The Exoneration Justice Clinic, which was established in the fall of 2020, engages Notre Dame Law School students to represent clients in wrongful conviction cases, allowing students hands-on experience with the criminal justice system, and providing critical support to clients of the clinic. Eighteen law students and four undergraduate students are currently enrolled in the EJC. Find out more about the work of the Exoneration Justice Center here.