For UW Law School students, participating in hands-on clinical education means serving real people facing real legal issues. For students in the Wisconsin Innocence Project, it’s a chance to help exonerate an innocent person who has been deprived of freedom, often for decades.
Since its founding, the program has helped release over 20 wrongfully convicted inmates. Students and faculty work countless hours reviewing case files, interviewing clients, gathering new evidence, and drafting legal documents. They also research the latest scientific data—on topics like DNA analysis and the inaccuracy of eyewitness testimony—to substantiate their clients’ claims of innocence. Through this process, students gain legal skills and learn about the operation and limitations of the criminal justice system.
Faculty and students also look beyond the individual cases, with an eye toward reform. Through research, education, and legislative efforts, they aim to prevent future injustices by examining more broadly how wrongful convictions occur and exposing flawed practices.
The work can be daunting, says Professor Keith Findley, who co-founded the program in 1998. But he says he remains inspired by the students and professors who are relentlessly dedicated to helping return the innocent to society and right the course of justice.