WHAT WE DO

Students in the Actual Innocence Clinic investigate allegations of wrongful conviction based on claims of innocence, suggest strategies for relief on those cases, and study the root causes leading to wrongful convictions. In addition to working on individual cases, students research criminal justice practices, and when appropriate, recommend systemic changes and reforms.


WHY WE SELECTED THESE CLINICS

When an innocent person is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, society suffers. The guilty party remains free to prey on new victims, while the wrong person is imprisoned and their family is torn asunder, sometimes unable to sustain itself without government assistance.

This clinic exposes students to cutting edge issues such as the DNA revolution, and the questions raised by DNA exonerations about criminal justice practices that contributed to a wrongful conviction. Students explore current practices and limitations, while suggesting systemic change when appropriate. Those activities prepare them to be leaders in a world that will be forever impacted by advances in science and technology.

WHO'S INVOLVED

Faculty Faculty      
     
Catherine Burnett
Vice President, Associate Dean,
Director of Clinical Programs,
and Professor of Law
Gianpaolo Macerola
Adjuct Clinical Instructor
 
 


ORGANIZATIONS / PARTNERS


This clinic pairs South Texas with the Innocence Project of Texas, members of the national innocence movement, and private attorneys seeking assistance on cases with clients convicted of crimes they did not commit.

FUTURE PLANS

A second related clinic will focus on state court based post-conviction writ practice. It will be available to challenge the constitutionality of confinement in cases in which innocence cannot be proved because evidence has been lost or destroyed, but which in the view of the clinic team represents a miscarriage of justice. Students will learn investigation, theory development, drafting, and litigation advocacy.

SIGNIFICANT ACHEIVEMENTS

  • Review of more than 50 cases in the past academic year
  • Survey of all faulty identification exoneration cases in Texas for potential publication
  • Preliminary survey of reported prosecutorial misconduct cases in Texas over the past ten years for potential publication
  • Students assisted local counsel in researching and drafting federal post conviction challenge to imposition of the death penalty based on IQ of the migrant farm worker applicant who had minimal school and childhood records
  • Students and clinic faculty investigated and researched a state criminal murder conviction involving recantation and strong evidence that another person was the fatal shooter
  • Students are involved in an on-going project assisting local counsel in researching and drafting responses to a federal post conviction death penalty challenge involving neuropsychological issues never developed at the punishment phase of the Texas trial
  • Students surveyed all faulty identification exoneration cases in Texas to identify patterns and possible recommendations for future “best practices”