Duke's New Wrongful Convictions Clinic Takes Shape

Article excerpt

DURHAM, N.C.

James E. Coleman Jr., a professor and associate dean at Duke University s School of Law, says the lacrosse case in which e White students were wrongly charged in the alleged rape of a Black woman was not the catalyst for Duke's new Wrongful Convictions Clinic and Innocence Project. But, he says, "It made people pay attention to what's going on in our criminal justice system."

Over the next five years, Duke University will invest $1.25 million into the center, which Coleman will co-run with Theresa A. Newman, also an associate dean at the law school.

At the center, students are assigned real cases taken up by the North Carolina Chief Justice's Criminal Justice Study Commission to examine the possibility that a wrongful conviction exists. An undergraduate 'Advanced Issues in Wrongful Convictions" course will be offered, as well as mini-courses in forensic science, eyewitness identification and false confessions taught by experts. Chances for scholarly research and fellowships will also begin under the new center.

"Three of our students suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the legal system, and we were relieved when their innocence was finally established" Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead stated in a press release announcing the center. "Nonetheless, their ordeal reminded all of us that our legal system is imperfect and innocent people can be accused unfairly. I am determined that we Hill make some good come out of the grave injustice that took place."

The center Hill also include a public policy initiative that Hill examine criminal justice and professional responsibility issues. …