The Innocence Clinic at Cornell Law School provides students with an opportunity to obtain practical training in postconviction criminal defense work through investigation and litigation on behalf of New York prisoners with viable claims of actual innocence.
Participation in the Clinic involves a classroom component and a clinical/fieldwork component. The classroom component consists of lectures and discussions focused on (a) the principal causes of wrongful convictions—including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, forensic science error, and incentivized witnesses; (b) postconviction law and litigation skills; and (c) ethical issues involved in innocence work. In the clinical part of the course, students develop investigation and litigation strategies, carry out fact investigation (including prisoner and witness interviews), perform case screening, work in collaboration with forensic science experts, and conduct legal research and writing, as determined by case needs. Class meetings are supplemented by regularly scheduled team meetings, in which we critically examine the issues arising in each case. In contrast to projects that specialize in DNA exonerations, the Cornell Law School Innocence Clinic focuses, principally, on cases in which there is no biological evidence.
If you would like to apply for the Clinic, please pre-register for the course and submit your resume and a brief letter describing your interest and experience, prior to the deadline provided in the course registration materials. Factors considered for admission to the Clinic include the student's interest and prior experience in criminal law, a demonstrated ability to work well with others, and prior coursework in criminal law, criminal procedure or evidence.