Since 2007, students at the University of Missouri School of Law have been working with the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP), a non-profit organization located in Kansas City, Missouri, to investigate cases of possible innocence in five Midwestern states. MIP’s mission is to educate about, advocate for, and obtain and support the exoneration and release of wrongfully convicted people in the Midwest. Recent studies conservatively estimate that between 2% and 5% of all people incarcerated in America are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, with some estimates reaching up to 7%. This means that somewhere between 2,000 and 7,000 people in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Arkansas are locked behind bars this very moment for crimes they did not commit.
In the fall semester, Emily Danker-Feldman, Director of the Innocence Clinic and Supervising Attorney with MIP, offers a three (3) credit course “Wrongful Convictions.” The course is designed to examine the causes of wrongful convictions, get students thinking like an innocence lawyer, and prepare students for the spring semester “Innocence Clinic.”
Sixteen (16) students can enroll in the Wrongful Convictions course, but only eight (8) students can enroll in the spring semester four (4) credit Innocence Clinic. Under Professor Danker-Feldman’s supervision, clinic students assist in reviewing, investigating and litigating innocence cases. Students work directly with MIP staff, learn about the challenges facing individuals who assert innocence, and gain important skills that will serve them after graduation. Clinic students are required to work approximately fifteen (15) hours a week on their clinic cases, keep time sheets documenting their time working on the cases, and participate in a weekly class and clinic meeting. The Innocence Clinic is graded on a pass/fail basis. Wrongful Convictions is a prerequisite.
MIP has its office in Kansas City and Professor Danker-Feldman is based in St. Louis. Professor Danker-Feldman makes herself available by Zoom, Slack, email, and phone and regularly comes to Columbia to meet with clinic students.
If selected for the Innocence Clinic, students are allowed to register for both the clinic and the Wrongful Convictions course. If not selected for the clinic, students may still gain one of the eight (8) remaining spots in the Wrongful Convictions course. A clinic “wait list” is used for students who are not selected but remain interested in the clinic.
Students who are ONLY interested in the Wrongful Convictions course can email Denise Boessen and let her know. She will get back to you letting you know if you can register or if you need to go on a wait list.