Innocence & Justice

Innocence & Justice

  • Course Description

    Students in the Innocence and Justice seminar will study the systemic causes of wrongful convictions in the context of real-life actual innocence case studies from around the country. The curriculum is culled from many different sources, including newspaper articles, documentary films, actual police reports and tapes of interrogations, case law and law reviews. Students will also have the opportunity to work to provide post-conviction relief for inmates who have been wrongly convicted and who have a credible claim of factual innocence of the charged offense(s). During the first several weekly sessions, students will be provided with an overview of criminal procedure, trial practice, and habeas corpus law. The next several sessions will be devoted to the causes of wrongful convictions, including mistaken eyewitness identifications, bogus forensic science, prosecutorial/police misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Students will also be doing a review and brainstorming of inmates' files; each student will be expected to present a short written case-brief of a number of inmates' files and a short oral presentation of pertinent information about the inmates' cases to the seminar participants, who will provide input on the strengths and weaknesses of the cases. Sessions on investigative techniques will be included throughout the semester.

    Course work used for grading includes active participation in seminar, written case-briefs and an oral presentation to the Innocence and Justice Project Board of Directors at the end of the semester.

    In this unique seminar, students will apply newly-gained knowledge about the Great Writ to real cases involving inmates in New Mexico prisons who have submitted information about their cases to the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project and who have a colorable claim of factual innocence. Seminar participants will learn invaluable investigative techniques in the process of uncovering the facts that eluded the trial court that convicted the inmates. Students may also have the opportunity to work with practicing attorneys by drafting motions and pleadings.

    Enrollment is limited to twelve students in their second or third year.