The Innocence Project Clinic and Clemency Project offers students the opportunity to learn and to develop a wide range of lawyering skills, while providing direct assistance to inmates who have been convicted of violent crimes and sentenced to long jail sentences or to death, but who assert that they are actually innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. The Clinic is part of a national network of programs dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through vigorous reinvestigation of the facts surrounding the crimes for which they were convicted and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The Clinic's cases are referred to it by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
The Clemency Project (new in fall 2013) will expand the work of the Clinic into cases on behalf of individuals seeking executive clemency in the form of a pardon or commutation of sentence.
The Innocence Project Clinic and Clemency Project is a year-long, graded course offered for a total of six credits, three in the fall semester and three in the spring semester. Students must enroll in and satisfactorily complete both semesters to earn course credit. The course consists of casework, classwork, research and writing, and special projects that focus on the systemic issues that arise in cases of wrongful conviction and the provision of executive clemency. In both semesters, students attend a weekly two-hour seminar that looks at the systemic and institutional causes of wrongful convictions and provides instruction in the skills needed to investigate and evaluate claims of actual innocence. In addition to the seminar class, students confer with the instructor in weekly case team meetings and at other times as required by the casework. Upper level portfolio writing credit is available. Satisfactory completion of the course may satisfy the Professional Skills requirement. Enrollment is limited; there is a pre-registration application process.
The Clinic is supervised by Professor Sandy Ogilvy who also is the Director of the law school's Office of Law & Social Justice Initiatives. In 2012-2013, the Clinic will be supervised by Adjunct Professor John Sharifi, who has been a criminal defense lawyer for over ten years.