Detroit Mercy Law School, county Conviction Integrity Unit team up

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Detroit Mercy Law School and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office are partnering to create a clinic that will allow students to assist the prosecutor's Conviction Integrity Unit.

The specialized CIU was created in 2018 by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to address wrongful convictions by reinvestigating past cases, often after inmates request the office take a fresh look at their convictions.

The CIU has assisted in 29 exonerations/grants of relief since 2018.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

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The unit has received 1,727 requests for investigation, according to the prosecutor's office. There are 50 cases actively being investigated. 

Valerie Newman, director of the CIU since it was formed, will oversee the Detroit Mercy Law school clinic and the students will work with Wayne County assistant prosecutors.

The law school CIU clinic will begin this fall term at Detroit Mercy Law, where classes begin Aug. 23. There will be six students working in the clinic, which will give students the opportunity to help people with felony convictions who claim innocence and who otherwise would not have access to legal services.

The goal of the coursework is to educate law students about the issues that may lead to wrongful convictions and to engage students in the review of innocence claims made by those who have been convicted of a crime.

“We are 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,” said Worthy. “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. 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.”

Detroit Mercy Law Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum said: "This new collaboration with the Conviction Integrity Unit is a great example of Detroit Mercy Law’s commitment to advancing justice in our community.

 “The Conviction Integrity Unit Clinic will allow our students to learn about how the criminal justice system can fail but will also give them the opportunity to be a part of the system's solution in restoring justice and integrity." 

The clinical program at Detroit Mercy Law, founded in 1965, is one of the first clinical programs in the nation.

Detroit Mercy Law has an experiential education requirement and requires students to enroll in a clinic during  their second or third years. The new CIU clinic will be one of the offerings available to students. 

Jefferson added: "We all believe that it is imperative for students to understand the failures of the criminal justice system and to understand that as lawyers, and especially as prosecutors, they have an obligation to work to correct miscarriages of justice. "