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[ Reinventing the Clerkship ]

In her first three months, Lamberson assisted in drafting a brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, prepared presentations for visual aid in jury trials, completed discovery requests, conducted oral hearings for motions to suppress evidence, and conducted a civil hearing in municipal court regarding a dangerous dog designation appeal, which essentially was a minitrial. “She has truly been a great asset … and has gained practical experience from her short time in our office,” Prosecutor Gregg Marx ’79 wrote in an early evaluation of the program. “In my opinion, she will be able to provide quality assistance to a county prosecutor’s office. I believe she has a bright future as an assistant prosecutor.” Work with life-changing impact As media seized upon stories in which the Innocence Project exonerated wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing, Moritz alumni in Ohio diligently pursued appeals on behalf of those for whom DNA evidence does not exist. The Wrongful Conviction Project is the state’s first program to focus exclusively on wrongful conviction claims in non-life-sentence cases. Launched in 2009 by Kelly Schneider ’96, the program is run by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender for inmates whose cases meet seven criteria: • The inmate must be indigent. • The inmate claims factual innocence of the convictions. • The inmate did not contribute in any way to the commission of the offense. • The inmate is serving a lengthy prison sentence. • The inmate has no prior history of violent crimes or lengthy criminal record. • The basis for claimed innocence is not outcome-determinative as to DNA evidence. • The inmate has exhausted the legal process. Joe Bodenhamer, director of the Wrongful Conviction Project, explained that evidence commonly relied upon at trials – including eyewitness misidentification, invalid forensic evidence, false confessions, and incriminating statements – can be unreliable and lead to an innocent person’s incarceration. To date, there have been nearly 300 post-conviction exonerations in the United States, he said. “Flawed evidence is not unique to cases in which DNA contributes to exoneration — it is evidence commonly used in criminal cases. Thus, a need exists to examine cases in which DNA is not available >>

Rallying around a program Erin Moriarty ’77 was inspired by a story. She was reading SideBar, the monthly e-newsletter for alumni at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and saw an article about Kelly Schneider ’96 and her work in creating the Wrongful Conviction Project at the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. It was the state’s first program accepting cases of convicted criminals who say they’re innocent but lack the DNA evidence to prove it. While a noble cause, the project lacked monetary support. Schneider and her colleagues had hoped to receive a grant from the Department of Justice, but it fell through. Schneider moved forward anyway. “I loved reading about Kelly because I do as many wrongfully accused stories I can get my hands on for work,” said Moriarty, a CBS News reporter and 48 Hours correspondent. Among the pieces Moriarty’s brought before a national audience was the case of the West Memphis Three, a story she covered for four years. A trio of teenagers were tried and convicted of the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Ark. during the 1990s despite lack of any physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. Forensic evidence uncovered in 2007 could not be attributed to the three defendants, eventually leading to their release. The case attracted the attention of national media and celebrities, from actor Johnny Depp to grunge rock icon Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. “There are far more cases where you’re not going to get the press and celebrities involved. I thought if I really believed strongly in this work, I better put my money where my mouth was,” Moriarty said. She met with Dean Alan C. Michaels to see if there was a seminar or clinic that could be held with current students who could assist Schneider. Michaels had a better idea: Why not create a fellowship to fund a Moritz graduate’s full-time attention to the work? Moriarty made a pledge to fund a fellow for at least the first three years of the project and tried to drum up support from other alumni. “I committed to this before we took pay cuts at CBS. But it should be a sacrifice. It should be hard,” Moriarty said. “What I didn’t realize was it would be harder to get my fellow alums involved. Maybe people don’t realize how frequently this happens, but we keep finding it’s more and more.” Moriarty has taken a personal interest in the fellows and their work. In a conversation from her office in New York City, she talked about the cases being pursued and the difficulty investigators have in finding new evidence when DNA doesn’t exist. As a woman in television journalism, Moriarty says she has lasted longer than most of her peers because of her Moritz education. She credits Ohio State for affording her the “perfect job,” covering stories tangled with legal complexities. “I wanted to give back in an area that has given so much to me. Maybe someone would get out of prison for it, and maybe young grads would get jobs. Who could argue with that?” she said. Moriarty hopes the Wrongful Conviction Project lasts more than three years, and she’s spreading the word about it to former classmates and friends whenever possible. “I’m scared it won’t go on after this, and it would be really great if more people

stepped up.” – Monica DeMeglio

Moritz College of Law | W I N T E R 2 0 1 3

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All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor

All Rise Winter 2013  

All Rise Winter 2013 - The Creepy Factor

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