Student FAQs

What is the Innocence & Justice Clinic?

The I & J Clinic is a clinical program launched by Wake Forest in Spring 2009 that provides students with the opportunity to explore the interdisciplinary causes of wrongful convictions while giving students the hands-on experience of investigating actual claims of innocence by inmates.

What are the topics covered by the course?

The two hour seminar component of the course covers such topics as: mistaken eyewitness identification; false confessions; the role of forensic DNA  and non-DNA testing; ineffective assistance of counsel; post-conviction remedies for innocence claims; the use of jailhouse informants and cooperating witnesses; police and prosecutorial misconduct; policy and legislative reforms; innocence and the death penalty; re-entry programs and post-conviction remedies.

Is the Clinic only for students who want to practice in the criminal justice system?

Absolutely not. Students gain strong analytical skills as they study the myriad causes of wrongful convictions. The process of reviewing and investigating cases will provide students with practical lawyering skills that are transferable to any law office practice. Moreover, attorneys are intrigued by the work conducted by wrongful convictions programs and will appreciate your commitment to improving the justice system.

What skills will students acquire from taking the Clinic?

The way the Clinic operates, students will be placed in teams and assigned actual cases to locate newly discovered evidence that could lead to exoneration. Students will have an opportunity to review criminal files, interact with police investigators, contact prosecuting attorneys, gather documentation, prepare legal documents and memos, and apply critical legal skills to clients’ cases. Students will meet with the Clinic director weekly to discuss the ongoing progress of their cases and what needs to be accomplished to further the review and investigation of the inmate’s claim of innocence.

How many credits are allotted for the course?

Students receive four credit hours for completing the Clinic.

How many hours a week should I expect to devote to the Clinic?

Students should expect to work 8 to 10 hours per week on Clinic cases in addition to preparing for the two hour seminar.

Are there prerequisites for the Clinic?

No.

Does this course satisfy the Practice Skills Requirement?

Yes.

How is the course graded?

There is no final exam in this course. Grading will be based on attendance and participation, handling of clients’ cases and clinic matters, and periodic written assignments throughout the semester.

How does the Clinic get cases?

We often receive letters directly from inmates or their family members asking for help.  Cases are also referred to us by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Does this course have a relationship to the Wake Innocence Project?

Yes, the I & J Clinic grew out of the Innocence Project at Wake which began in 2007 and gave students an opportunity to conduct initial case reviews to see if DNA existed which could exonerate the inmate.

Other questions?

If you have other questions, please contact Director Mark Rabil at smrabil@wfu.edu or Faculty Assistant  Annemarie Buwalda at 758-6111.