School, prosecutor's office collaborate on clinic

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) recently announced a collaboration in the form of a new clinic.

The CIU was created by Prosecutor Kym Worthy in 2018 to address wrongful convictions.

Valerie Newman has been the director of the CIU since its inception.

There have been 29 exonerations/grants of relief since 2018. Currently, the unit has 1727 requests for investigation.

There are 50 cases that are actively being investigated.?

Newman will oversee the clinic.

The students will work under her supervision as well as with other Wayne County assistant prosecutors.

The CIU clinic will begin in the 2021 fall term, which begins on Aug. 23. Six students will be working in the clinic. 

The clinic will provide students with the opportunity to help incarcerated individuals with felony convictions who claim innocence and who otherwise may not have access to legal services.

The goal of this course is to educate law students about the issues which lead to wrongful convictions and to engage students directly in the review of actual innocence claims made by individuals who have been convicted of a crime.

“This new collaboration with the Conviction Integrity Unit is a great example of Detroit Mercy Law’s commitment to advancing justice in our community,” said Detroit Mercy Law Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum. “We are so grateful to Valerie Newman and the Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and her office for the work they are doing to address wrongful convictions and for choosing Detroit Mercy Law as a partner.” 

Worthy said she and members of her office “thrilled that Detroit Mercy Law has committed to a have a clinical CIU program to educate students in this crucially needed field of criminal law.

“The students will also work closely on cases in our CIU and I am certain that this collaboration will enhance and continue the work we have undertaken,” Worthy said. “I am convinced that working in this clinic will also make law students better lawyers in the future, as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and in other areas of the law.”

Newman said the clinical class “will give students the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the prosecution of a criminal case, the causes of wrongful conviction and how the appellate system works in Michigan.

“It will involve the review of cases where someone maintains their innocence, how to identify a potentially credible innocence case and the review of innocence cases deemed credible.

Students will participate in all aspects of conviction integrity work.” The clinical program at Detroit Mercy Law, founded in 1965, is one of the first clinical programs in the nation and currently offers 12 semester-long clinics where students gain hands-on experience while helping those in need.

Detroit Mercy Law is the only law school in Michigan that requires students gain hands-on experience through clinics for graduation.


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