493 Wrongful Convictions Clinic

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic pursues plausible claims of legal and factual innocence made by incarcerated people in North Carolina convicted of serious felonies. 

Students in the clinic study the causes of wrongful convictions, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, “jailhouse snitches,” and race. Student-attorneys work under the supervision of faculty to develop, manage, and litigate cases by carrying out a wide range of legal activities, including communicating with our clients, locating and interviewing witnesses about facts, gathering documents and records, drafting a range of legal documents and memos, working with experts, and helping to prepare for evidentiary hearings and oral arguments in state and federal courts. Most clinic cases do not involve DNA.

Many former students describe their time in the clinic, working to exonerate individuals incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit, as their most rewarding experience during law school.

For the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, we expect that the seminar component of the Clinic will be taught in an online-only format. As necessary and appropriate, however, other Clinic meetings will be in person, including work and supervision meetings with faculty.  That said, students who either elect not to return to Durham or who are not able to participate in the Clinic on an in person basis will still be able to participate fully in the Clinic on a remote basis.

Enrollment Prerequisite

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
Practical exercises
In-class exercise
Live-client representation and case management
Class participation
Course Type
Clinic
Learning Outcomes
Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context
Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession
2020
Fall 2020
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.01 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Jamie T. Lau Tu 4:00 PM-5:50 PM

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic pursues plausible claims of legal and factual innocence made by incarcerated people in North Carolina convicted of serious felonies. 

Students in the clinic study the causes of wrongful convictions, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, “jailhouse snitches,” and race. Student-attorneys work under the supervision of faculty to develop, manage, and litigate cases by carrying out a wide range of legal activities, including communicating with our clients, locating and interviewing witnesses about facts, gathering documents and records, drafting a range of legal documents and memos, working with experts, and helping to prepare for evidentiary hearings and oral arguments in state and federal courts. Most clinic cases do not involve DNA.

Many former students describe their time in the clinic, working to exonerate individuals incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit, as their most rewarding experience during law school.

For the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, we expect that the seminar component of the Clinic will be taught in an online-only format. As necessary and appropriate, however, other Clinic meetings will be in person, including work and supervision meetings with faculty.  That said, students who either elect not to return to Durham or who are not able to participate in the Clinic on an in person basis will still be able to participate fully in the Clinic on a remote basis.

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
Spring 2020
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.02 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman, Jamie T. Lau Tu 4:00PM - 5:50PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic is an investigative and litigation clinic.  With the assistance of supervisors, outside counsel, and other professionals, students work in teams to help free innocent inmates in North Carolina by developing their claims of innocence and, when necessary, pursuing relief on their behalf in state and federal court.  Each team of students,  under the supervision of Clinic faculty, undertakes a wide range of work, which can include corresponding and meeting with the client, identifying and interviewing witnesses, developing an investigative and legal strategy for advancing the client’s case, researching and drafting complex complaints and briefs, assisting in court proceedings, and, eventually, assisting the client in transitioning from wrongful imprisonment to freedom.

The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal factors that contribute to wrongful convictions (e.g., mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct) and offers training in relevant investigative and litigation skills ( e.g., interviewing, writing, and analysis of various forms  of evidence).

Clinic students must attend an all-clinics’ intensive training day scheduled early in the semester and, over the semester, perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance).

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
2019
Fall 2019
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.01 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Jamie T. Lau, Theresa A. Newman Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic is an investigative and litigation clinic.  With the assistance of supervisors, outside counsel, and other professionals, students work in teams to help free innocent inmates in North Carolina by developing their claims of innocence and, when necessary, pursuing relief on their behalf in state and federal court.  Each team of students,  under the supervision of Clinic faculty, undertakes a wide range of work, which can include corresponding and meeting with the client, identifying and interviewing witnesses, developing an investigative and legal strategy for advancing the client’s case, researching and drafting complex complaints and briefs, assisting in court proceedings, and, eventually, assisting the client in transitioning from wrongful imprisonment to freedom.

The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal factors that contribute to wrongful convictions (e.g., mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct) and offers training in relevant investigative and litigation skills ( e.g., interviewing, writing, and analysis of various forms  of evidence).

Clinic students must attend an all-clinics’ intensive training day scheduled early in the semester and, over the semester, perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance).

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
Spring 2019
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.02 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman, Jamie T. Lau Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
2018
Fall 2018
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.01 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman, Jamie T. Lau Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
Spring 2018
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.02 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
Jamie T. Lau, Theresa A. Newman, James E. Coleman, Jr. Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites
Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)
Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
2017
Fall 2017
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.01 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman, Jamie T. Lau Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites
Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)
Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
Spring 2017
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.02 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Jamie T. Lau, Theresa A. Newman Tu 3:45-5:35 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites
Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)
Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
2016
Fall 2016
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.01 4
  • Practical exercises
  • In-class exercise
  • Live-client representation and case management
  • Class participation
James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman, Jamie T. Lau Tu 3:45-5:35 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more. During the semester, students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of client work (in addition to weekly seminar preparation and attendance). Students must also attend the Clinic Intensive Training Day scheduled early in the semester, which is conducted collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Pre/Co-requisites

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Enrollment Restrictions
LLM (international) by permission
Spring 2016
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

493.02 4 James E. Coleman, Jr., Theresa A. Newman Tu 3:45-5:35 PM 1178

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic investigates North Carolina prisoners' claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction. Students typically work in teams of two on one inmate's case. Among other things, the teams meet with the client (in prison), read and digest trial transcripts, interview witnesses, consult with experts, prepare investigative and legal strategies, and, if the case is ready, prepare the comprehensive Motion for Appropriate Relief to have the client's conviction overturned. The seminar component of the Clinic examines the principal problems that lead to the conviction of the innocent and the leading proposals for reform, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, faulty forensic evidence, the role of forensic DNA testing, post-conviction remedies for innocence claims, the use of "jailhouse snitches" and other cooperating witnesses, incompetent defense counsel, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The seminar also includes skills-training sessions, during which students gain training in negotiation, interviewing, writing, and more.  Students are required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of legal work during the semester – and attend the Clinic Intensive Training Weekend early in the semester, which is scheduled collectively with the other Duke Law Clinics.

Clinics Enrollment Policy

IMPORTANT:

This course may not be dropped after the first class meeting.

Students MUST be able to attend the day-long clinic intensive training session to enroll in this course.

Pre/Co-requisites
None
Enrollment Restrictions
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.