Founded in 2009, the Michigan Innocence Clinic was the first innocence clinic in the country to focus exclusively on non-DNA cases. In the clinic's 12-year history, it has successfully freed 26 clients who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Students registered in the clinic investigate and litigate cases on behalf of inmates who are actually innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. Students work on all aspects of the cases, including researching claims of innocence and the law pertaining to them, investigating new evidence, writing and editing court briefs and motions, and participating in courtroom activities when there are hearings scheduled in their cases. The Clinic also features a seminar component, where students explore in class the legal and policy issues underlying wrongful convictions. There are no exams or papers, and students are graded on their preparedness and contribution to class, the progress they make in their casework, and the quality of the work product they produce.
This is a full-year clinic with seven credits per semester and it meets the New York Pro-Bono requirement. All credits are mandatory graded and ineligible for letter grade conversion to pass ("P") election. The Innocence Clinic spans fall and winter semesters of one academic year. Students may register during winter of 1L or 2L year for enrollment during 2L or 3L year, respectively.
The Innocence Clinic's docket spans both state and federal courts and is quite diverse and novel. No two cases are the same, and non-DNA innocence litigation continues to be a fascinating challenge within the field of criminal litigation. Students work with supervising attorneys to craft legal strategies and explore evidentiary avenues that would have been unimaginable even for experienced criminal litigators just a few years ago. Students interested in criminal law/procedure, appellate practice, brief writing, public interest work, innocence litigation, or courtroom advocacy would be especially suitable for the Innocence Clinic. That said, there are no specific prerequisites (outside of the regular first-year courses), and no prior specialized knowledge of criminal defense or innocence litigation is required or expected.