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WMU-Cooley's Innocence Project Receives Grant to Support Forensic Case Review

The Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School $300,000 in grant funding to screen post-conviction claims of innocence. In 2019, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project (Project) first received the Upholding the Rule of Law grant. This new award provides two additional years of funding to the original grant, which supports reviewing criminal convictions for forensic errors and tracking data to improve the criminal justice system.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project

Since 2017, the Project has partnered with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit to screen cases in which unreliable forensic practices contributed to wrongful conviction. In 2019, a similar partnership with the Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit was established. Just this year, the Project achieved three exonerations--Kenneth Nixon (Wayne County), Gilbert Poole (Oakland County), and Corey McCall (Berrien County). These successes were supported by federal grant funding.

The new two-year award will provide funding to support forensic case review and expert consultation as well as pay the salaries of two part-time attorneys. When possible, new scientific tools, including DNA testing, will be used to verify the integrity of the underlying conviction. 

“Working alongside our Conviction Integrity Unit partners has broadened the scope of the work that we are able to do in the state of Michigan,” stated WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Tracey Brame. “We are pleased that the Department of Justice has recognized this important work and provided resources for us to continue our partnerships and help fund our efforts to free Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted.” 

The goal of this project with Wayne County’s and the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Units is to review, and work to conclusion, 400 cases involving claims of innocence. The funding will support timely case review and support the availability of post-conviction DNA testing statewide. By tracking the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions, corrective policies can be developed, and the criminal justice system improved.

Since its inception in 2001, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project has screened over 6,900 cases and will bring its years of experience in case review to the collaboration. The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is currently reviewing Wayne County convictions in partnership with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit.

To learn more about the funding

To learn more about the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project

 

 

Dec 10 2021