Detroit Mercy Law, Prosecutor’s Office to team up against wrongful convictions

Exterior of School of Law clinic buildingStarting this fall, Detroit Mercy Law students will work with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) to help right wrongful convictions.

The collaboration comes in the form of a new clinic at which six students a semester will work alongside Wayne County assistant prosecutors under the supervision of CIU Director Valerie Newman, who will also oversee the clinic.

The Conviction Integrity Clinic will provide students the opportunity to provide access to legal services for people serving time for felony convictions and who claim they are innocent. The goal of this clinic is to educate law students about the issues that lead to wrongful convictions and to engage students directly in the review of innocence claims made by individuals who have been convicted of a crime.

“This clinical class will give students the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the prosecution of a criminal case, the causes of wrongful conviction and how the appellate system works in Michigan,” Newman said. “It will involve the review of cases where someone maintains their innocence, how to identify a potentially credible innocence case and the review of innocence cases deemed credible.”

Detroit Mercy Law Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum praised the partnership, which expands the clinic offerings students can choose from to 13. Detroit Mercy Law is the only law school in Michigan that requires students to gain hands-on experience through clinics for graduation.

“This new collaboration with the Conviction Integrity Unit is a great example of Detroit Mercy Law’s commitment to advancing justice in our community,” Jefferson Exum said. “We are so grateful to Valerie Newman and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and her office for the work they are doing to address wrongful convictions and for choosing Detroit Mercy Law as a partner.”

Worthy created the CIU in 2018 to address wrongful convictions. In that time, there have been 29 exonerations or grants of relief. Currently, the unit has 1,727 requests for investigation and 50 cases actively being investigated.

“We are thrilled that Detroit Mercy Law has committed to a have a clinical CIU program to educate students in this crucially needed field of criminal law,” said Worthy. “I am certain that this collaboration will enhance and continue the work we have undertaken. I am convinced that working in this clinic will also make law students better lawyers in the future, as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and in other areas of the law.”

The clinical program at Detroit Mercy Law was founded in 1965, and is one of the first clinical programs in the nation. Detroit Mercy Law, inspired by the Jesuit and Mercy traditions, educates lawyers who are committed to the pursuit of justice, service to others, and the highest standards of the legal profession.

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