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LSU Law receives U.S. Department of Justice grant to establish Wrongful Conviction Clinic

Posted on October 23, 2020

LSU Law, in partnership with the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO), has received a nearly $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to review select cases of incarcerated people who have claims of innocence. The two-year grant establishes the Wrongful Conviction Clinic at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center — the first clinic of its kind at a Louisiana law school — in which LSU Law students will review cases to identify those that may benefit from DNA testing.

“We are so pleased to establish this vitally important new clinic at LSU Law, which will provide our students with invaluable real-world experience working on incredibly meaningful criminal legal cases,” said LSU Law Interim Dean Lee Ann Wheelis Lockridge. “We’re honored to join forces in this effort with Innocence Project New Orleans, and we’re grateful for the support provided by the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The partnership between LSU Law and IPNO will expand IPNO’s capacity to review cases, locate evidence, and conduct DNA testing that may prove innocence and ultimately exonerate the innocent. It will also provide LSU Law students with a new avenue to gain practical experience working in the criminal legal system.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the expansion of our robust clinical programs at the LSU Law Center,” said Professor Robert Lancaster, Assistant Dean of Experiential Education. “We look forward to our partnership with IPNO as it will give our students practical legal experience representing individuals imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and, through that experience, understand how systemic problems in the criminal legal system cause those wrongful convictions.”

“As Louisiana continues to seek solutions to address its mass incarceration problem, IPNO is thrilled to partner with LSU Law and its outstanding clinical program to work to free innocent men and women from prisons,” said Jee Park, Director of IPNO. “IPNO has a proven, 20-year track record of winning freedom for life-sentenced innocent imprisoned individuals. IPNO is one of the most successful innocence programs in the country. We are eager to bring our legal experience and expertise to LSU Law and work with students seeking to understand and improve our justice system.”

“LSU Law is committed to preparing our graduates for success in the practice of law,” continued Assistant Dean Lancaster. “Our students already have the opportunity to serve the community and gain real-world experience through our Immigration, Juvenile, Parole & Reentry, Prosecution, and Mediation Clinics. The addition of the Wrongful Conviction Clinic will offer students the chance to work with the exceptional lawyers at IPNO and learn the essential lawyering skills and professional values that will prepare them well for any practice area they choose after graduation.”

“The Bureau of Justice Affairs DNA grant is a win-win for LSU Law and IPNO,” said Frank Neuner Jr., managing partner at NeunerPate and a 1976 LSU Law graduate who was instrumental in establishing the collaboration between LSU Law and IPNO, and chair of the IPNO board of directors. “It will provide the students with practical experience and an opportunity to learn from experienced IPNO lawyers while providing IPNO with additional resources for its core mission of freeing wrongly convicted innocent people.”