June 20, 2011
Cooley Law School Students Participate in Innocence Conference
Cooley Law School students Carrie Barnes, Antonia Bortone, James Knapp, Osmany Perez, Tierra Stover, and Amanda Tringl attended the 2011 Innocence Network Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio recently with fellow student interns, employees, and directors from Innocence Projects from across the United States.
In addition, about 100 individuals exonerated through the work of Innocence Projects were also in attendance. All five Cooley students are either interns or alumni of the Cooley Innocence Project.
From left, Cooley Law School student Amanda Tringl, DNA exoneree Ronald Cotton, Jennifer Thompson, and Cooley Law School graduate Antonia Bortone.
Bortone, who graduated from Cooley in May 2011, said the conference was unique because, in addition to hosting exonerees from the United States, they had exonerees from other countries such as England, Japan, Mexico, and Nicaragua there to tell their stories.
The conference, titled An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction, covered such areas as Recantation Evidence: How to Obtain It and Use It Effectively, Introduction to Post-Conviction DNA Testing, and other subjects.
"It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience," Bortone said, adding it was "something I wish everyone could experience."
Bortone and Tringl had an opportunity to meet exoneree Ronald Cotton, as well as Jennifer Thompson, the woman who mistakenly identified Cotton as her attacker.
Through DNA testing, it was later proved that Cotton was innocent of the crime, and the real perpetrator was identified. Cotton and Thompson have since become friends, have written a book together, and have become advocates about the problems associated with eyewitness identification. The TV show 60 Minutes featured them in an interview.
The Innocence Project at Cooley Law School has been in place since 2001 and is directed by Cooley professors Donna McKneelen and Marla Mitchell-Cichon. Cooley's Innocence Project has been responsible for the exoneration and release of two individuals in Michigan, Ken Wyniemko and Nathaniel Hatchett. McKneelen said that, while Hatchett was unable to attend the conference this year, Wyniemko attended and was also instrumental in planning most of the plenary sessions for the other exonerees.
Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, non-profit law school operates J.D. programs across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Today, Cooley Law School has more than 15,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs. Cooley offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September.