Member of Devontae Sanford’s Legal Team Honored with Integrity Award

Devontae Sanford with Valerie Newman

Devontae Sanford (left) with Valerie Newman, who helped win the release of Sanford who was wrongfully convicted at the age of 14 of a quadruple homicide and served nine years in prison. Newman was presented with WMU-Cooley’s Integrity in Our Communities Award.

Valerie Newman was honored with the Integrity Award during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Integrity in Our Communities Speaker Series on June 29. The award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession. Newman is an attorney with the State Appellate Defender’s office who was instrumental in earning the release of Davontae Sanford.

Sanford, who also spoke at the discussion, was wrongfully convicted at the age of 14 of a quadruple homicide and served nine years in prison before being released. He took questions from the audience, reflected on his experience and discussed the hope Newman’s efforts instilled in him. Newman spoke about the importance of integrity and civility in the criminal justice system.

“I believe the justice system works when attorneys work together for the common goal of achieving justice,” said Newman. “When you are practicing law, especially criminal defense law, you must remember that you are impacting the life of a real person and no one should be remembered by their worst day, weakest moment or biggest mistake.”

The event was attended by over 60 WMU-Cooley and Oakland University law students, faculty, staff, as well as Newman’s family. WMU-Cooley Law School Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka said, “Newman is an inspiration and she is passionate about her work. Her discussion today will have a lasting impact on our students and how they approach their profession.”

Erika Breitfeld, Lisa Halushka, Valerie Newman, Mark Cooney, Devontae Sanford

Pictured (left-right) Professor Erika Breitfeld; Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka; Valerie Newman, attorney, State Appellate Defender’s office; Professor Mark Cooney, and exoneree Devontae Sanford.

Valerie Newman

Valerie Newman, attorney with the State Appellate Defender’s office, who was instrumental in earning the release of Devontae Sanford speaks during WMU-Cooley Law Schools Integrity in Our Communities speaker series on June 29.

About Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School: Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School affiliated in 2014, combining the status of a nationally-ranked, public, comprehensive research university with the commitment to practical legal education of an independent, non-profit, national law school. WMU-Cooley is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The law school has provided nearly 20,000 graduates with the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world, and enrolls classes in January, May, and September at its Lansing, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids, Michigan campuses, and its Tampa Bay, Florida campus. WMU and the law school continue to operate as independent institutions with their own governance structure and separate fiduciary responsibilities.



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