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Innocence and Justice Project New Mexico

The Project provides a valuable opportunity for law students to be a part of something that really matters. Those who participate gain real experience and develop an intimate understanding of how the system breaks down, and what can be done to reform it.

Maggie Lane, Class of 2011

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The New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project at the UNM School of Law serves our state and educates law students inside and outside of the classroom. At the law school, the Project includes the Innocence and Justice and Wrongful Convictions seminars, in addition to field work where students learn the law of due process in post-conviction settings, and provide the time and resources to thoroughly evaluate cases under investigation. Students uniformly describe it as one of their best law school experiences in learning how to investigate facts in complex cases.

The Project is also working with other stakeholders in the criminal justice system in New Mexico to improve the handling and preservation of physical evidence, including possible reforms, that is vital to the post-conviction claims of the factually innocent incarcerated in New Mexico prisons.

The Project was funded by a federal grant for DNA-related cases in 2009, which allowed the UNM School of Law to hire Research Professor Gordon Rahn in 2010 to head the Project. That grant ended in 2013, but recently has been replaced by a second federal grant for 2015-16, which unfortunately is restricted to DNA-related cases. The Bergman Fund will allow the Project to work on non-DNA cases for the next two years while permanent funding is put in place. There are currently more than 180 non-DNA applications on file with new applications coming in to IJP on a weekly basis.

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