Author John Grisham, at the College of Law's 175th anniversary in 2008, showed his support of the students work. Read more about his visit at the bottom of the page.
"More of our students come in with an interest in seeing justice done, seeing right prevail," said former associate dean Barbara Watts, MA (Ed) '69, JD '78. "They're eager to roll up their sleeves and begin doing the right thing."
Roughly 27 percent of upper-class law students participate in the optional real-world experiences, Watts estimated. "They feel good about helping people while they're learning. It's a lot of work, but it's compelling, engaging work. And it's amazing to see how devoted they become."
The state of Ohio allows third-year law students to work with real clients under direct supervision of an attorney. The College of Law offers its students three types of real-client experiences:
Domestic Relations/Domestic Violence Clinic -- UC students represent clients seeking relief from domestic violence or legal assistance with child support, child custody and visitation. The clinic is operated in partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.
Appellate Practice Clinic -- Possibly the first program of its kind in the Midwest, the clinic lets student teams spend a year working on appeal cases for indigent defendants and argue before the court. The firm Squires, Sanders and Dempsey pays for attorney Pierre Bergeron to work with the students one day a week. In 2005, the students won a motion to keep an immigrant from being deported while his appeal was pending. The appellate clinic lasts a year so students "see all the aspects of the appeal from beginning to the end," Bergeron says. "It's kind of daunting when you first take a case on appeal. I don't want the students to be intimidated. I want them to be comfortable with the whole process."
The Innocence Project -- The national program works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted through post-conviction DNA testing and evidence that can conclusively prove innocence. The Ohio Innocence Project, based at UC, was founded in 2003, at a time that Ohio statistically had one of the largest prison populations without access to an Innocence Project. Funded entirely through private donations, the project provides the kind of legal experience unmatched in the classroom or on most jobs available to law students.
Initially, 19 students began working full time on the project over a summer, screening more than 250 requests from prisoners, then selecting six cases for complete investigation based upon the possibility of introducing new evidence to exonerate the prisoners, such as DNA testing or digital enhancement of old video films. During the school year, work continued on a part-time basis for class credit under the direction of Mark Godsey, UC professor and former federal prosecutor.
UC students had their first victory early in 2005 when Gary Reece walked away from prison after serving 25 years of a 75-year sentence for the rape and attempted murder of a woman in his apartment building.
No forensic evidence ever tied Reece to the case to begin with, and four UC students spent a year and a half developing new evidence. Their efforts included bringing a prominent forensic investigator into the case and establishing that the rape victim had a history of self-mutilation.
In 2007, the Ohio Innocence Project was subject matter for pilot episodes for two different TV series. "Court TV" featured one of the UC cases in debuting a new series called "Justice Delayed." Earlier in the fall, a new A&E network series called "Innocence Files" featured three UC students and their work developing the ongoing case of inmate Glenn Tinney.
In the Project’s four years of existence at that time, the students, who work with real clients under direct supervision of professors and an attorney, had screened thousands of requests from prisoners and had produced enough evidence to free three men.
In the spring of 2007, benefactors Lois (A&S ’60) and Richard Rosenthal had made their second $1 million gift to the college in support of the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project.
In April 2010, law students' successful work through the Innocence Project paved the way for groundbreaking reform in wrongful convictions early when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law Senate Bill 77, which sets statewide standards for retaining biological evidence, requires the taking of DNA in felony arrests and requires new procedures for police lineups.
No. 1 — Gary Reece (2005)
After 25 years behind bars and five failed parole requests, an Amelia, Ohio, man received parole in February 2005 thanks in part to UC law students who intervened through the Ohio Innocence Project. Gary Reece had 50 years remaining on his sentence for rape and attempted murder, a conviction based almost entirely upon the testimony of a woman who claimed he had attacked her.
One and a half year's worth of student research introduced significant new evidence to a parole hearing, including the facts that no forensic evidence linked Reece to the crime, Reece had passed lie-detector tests that the woman repeatedly failed, the woman had a history of self-mutilation practices consistent with the injuries she reported following the alleged attack and her former boyfriend filed an affidavit casting doubt on her truthfulness. Several of the students gathered to greet Reece at his release.
Update: Gary Reece died of cancer in July 2010, after being wrongfully jailed for 25 years and being free for 6.
Clarence Elkins at UC in 2006.
No. 2 — Clarence Elkins (2005)
Elkins was convicted of the the brutal rape and murder of his mother-in-law, as well as the beating and rape of his 6-year-old niece, even though no physical evidence had existed. Five years later, DNA tests confirmed that another prisoner, who was living near the victims at the time, had been in contact with both victims. After Ohio attorney general Jim Petro joined OIP in insisting that a new trial be granted, his conviction was overturned. Elkins, who had served seven and a half years in prion, became the OIP's first exoneration. (Read his full story here.)
No. 3 — Christopher Bennett (2006)
Read his full story here.
No. 4 — Bruce Paul (2008)
Convicted in '93, Paul was released after serving more than 14 years in prison, having maintained his innocence the entire time.
No. 5 — Robert McClendon (2008)
Imprisoned on a rape charge in 1990, Ohio inmate Robert McClendon gained his freedom in 2008 after UC law students convinced the court to grant a DNA test. (See a video with McClendon.)
No. 6 — Joseph Fears (2009)
Another wrongfully convicted Ohio prisoner went free in March thanks to the Ohio Innocence Project, which is based at UC. After serving time for a 1983 rape committed in Columbus, Ohio, Joseph Fears Jr., 61, went free in March 2009 when student research encouraged a county prosecutor to search for evidence eligible for DNA testing. Results proved another felon committed the crime.
No. 7 — Nancy Smith (2009)
After serving 15 years for children molestation, Nancy Smith, a Head Start bus driver, was exonerated when a Loraine County Common Pleas Court judge granted a new trial, then acquitted her in 2009. OIP faculty and students say that her conviction was based upon the testimony of very young children who had been coached by their parents and that the children’s stories both contradicted each other and contained inaccuracies. In the end, the children and their parents received millions of dollars in settlements.
But in January 2009, the Ohio Supreme Court reinstated the original conviction, ruling that Judge James Burge lacked the authority to hold a new sentencing entry and issue an acquittal. In April 2011, the OIP filed a petition with Gov. John Kasich asking him for clemency because the Supreme Court did not overturn the finding that she was not guilty. (Read more here.)
No. 9 — Raymond Towler (2010)
After nearly three decades of being locked up for a crime he did not commit, 52-year-old Raymond Towler was released from prison in May 2010. The Cleveland man was the longest serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate to be released in Ohio history and one of the longest in United States history.
DNA testing conclusively proved that Towler was not the perpetrator in a juvenile rape and assault case that occurred in 1981. UC law students Eric Gooding, Brian Howe, Matt Katz and Chris Brown worked on the case with Professor Mark Godsy, Ohio Innocence Project director. (Watch a video of Tower talking to UC students.)
No. 10 — Walter “Wally” Zimmer (2011)
Wally Zimmer served 12 years in prison for a murder based primarily on the testimony of a “snitch” who said he saw Zimmer and another man commit the murder. The Ohio Innocence Project worked on the case for more than five years when DNA testing not only failed to implicate Zimmer, but revealed that the snitch’s DNA was all over the crime scene. Furthermore, the victim’s blood was found on the snitch’s pants.
After the DNA results came in, prosecutors offered to release Zimmer and drop murder charges if he would plead guilty to a theft charge. Zimmer took the deal. His co-defendant, represented by the New York Ohio Innocence Project, was also released. (Read more.)
No. 11 — David Ayers (2011)
After serving a decade for a murder that he had always said he didn’t commit, David Ayres was freed from the Cuyahoga County jail on Sept. 12, 2011. In 2010, the Ohio Innocence Project was instrumental in getting DNA testing done, which excluded Ayers from key evidence at the crime scene. (Read his whole story.)
No. 12 — Roger “Dean” Gillispie (2011)
After serving 20 years in prison for rapes that he had always maintained he did not commit, 46-year-old Roger “Dean” Gillispie walked out of prison into the arms of his mother and father on Dec. 22, 2011. The Ohio Innocence Project worked on this case (its first case) for nine years before a federal judge overturned Gillispie's conviction based upon him not getting a fair trail in 1991. (Read his whole story.)
No. 13 — Bryant "Rico" Gaines (2012)
In 2004, Bryant "Rico" Gaines was convicted of the 2003 fatal shooting of Clarence Eugene Bradshaw and sentenced to 15 years to life. The original conviction had been based primarily on one testimony from a man who recanted five years later. When the Ohio Innocence Project became involved in the case, the team realized the coroner’s testimony had proven Gaines didn’t shoot anyone and they found a new witness who saw the shooting up close with no involvement from Bryant — but the witness had previously been too scared to come forward. New evidence was presented in '11 and a new trial was ordered, but the district court of appeals overturned the decision. In 2012, Gaines filed another motion, then accepted a plea deal to a reduced charge in exchange for his immediate freedom. He went free that year.
No. 14 — Teddy Moseley (2010)
Teddy Moseley was convicted in 2000 of two counts of aggravated vehicular assault and three counts of involuntary manslaughter when the car he was in his car spun out of control, crossed the center line and struck a minivan in Scioto County. The jury determined he was driving when the accident occurred, and he was sentenced to 11 years.
After his conviction, five people came forward to indicate they had been at the scene shortly after the accident, and they knew Moseley had been in the backseat. All of them claimed that the police knew of their presence on the scene but failed to contact any of them for a testimony later. In light of the new evidence, Moseley attempted, unsuccessfully, to get a new trial. In 2007, OIP submitted a letter supporting Moseley's request for executive clemency. In December 2010, the governor granted his clemency.
Doug Prade and his sister Yvonne right after he was released from prison. Photo from Akron Beacon Journal video.
No. 15 — Douglas Prade (2013)
On Jan. 29, following nearly 15 years of serving a life sentence for a crime he didn't commit, former Akron police captain Douglas Prade, 66, walked out of the Madison Correctional Institution near Columbus, Ohio. Thanks to long-time efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project, Prade had been exonerated for the murder of his ex-wife, Margo, and deemed innocent. In 1997, he had been convicted of shooting her, but DNA from a bite-mark on her lab coat excluded him when the case recently went back to court.
To keep up his spirits while imprisoned, Prade says he read about 500 books and kept a journal of thousands of pages. On one page, he wrote the names of 20 UC College of Law students who had helped with his case, dating back to the group's founding in 2003.
Prade hopes to keep up this long-term relationship by helping the Innocence Project free others. "I am committed to help them use the 30 years of experience I've had as a police officer and the 15 years of experience as a wrongly convicted person," he said "There are thousands of innocent men and women in prison, and a lot of them don’t have the advantage of having DNA (to aid their cases).” (Read entire story and watch video.)
No. 16 — Glenn Tinney (2013)
Glenn Tinney is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who confessed in 1992 to killing a man whom he could not identify and doing so four years earlier in 1988. Already jailed on an unrelated burglary, Tinney was convicted soley upon his confession with no other evidence linking him to Ted White being beaten to death in the Mansfield, Ohio, furniture story he owned.
In 2009, the Ohio Innocence Project filed a motion to withdraw Tinney/s plea after local police officers contacted the staff because they believed in his innocence and long suspected another man of the crime. The judge granted the motion to withdraw the plea, but it was appealed. The appeals court sent it back to the Common Pleas Court for an evidentiary hearing, which Judge James DeWeese held fall of 2012.
His Jan. 24, 2013, decision stated: "Mr. Tinney confessed to killing a man he could not identify, for conflicting motives which don’t match the facts, at the wrong time of day, with a weapon that does not match the victim’s injuries, by striking him in the wrong part of his head, and stealing items the victim either still possessed after the attack or probably never possessed.”
A forensic psychologist had testified that Tinney is "severely mentally ill, suffering hallucinations that leave him craving punishment" and had previously tried to commit suicide. The victim's wife and two former Mansfield police investigators were among Tinney's defenders — all of whom agree they do not want to see an innocent man in jail and a guilty man remain free.
Tinney will be freed in February if prosecutors do not appeal the decision.
On a broader scale, two years of UC law students' research paved the way for groundbreaking reform in wrongful convictions in 2010. In April of that year, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law Senate Bill 77, which sets statewide standards for retaining biological evidence, requires the taking of DNA in felony arrests and requires new procedures for police lineups.
To celebrate the College of Law's 175th anniversary in January 2008, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and 1,000 other guests turned out at a gala featuring legal novelist John Grisham and Emmy-winning alumnus sportscaster Cris Collinsworth, JD '91. Grisham, who wrote his first nonfiction book, "The Innocent Man," in 2007, made an impassioned plea for people to support the Ohio Innocence Project, for which he is a national board member. Earlier in the day, he had participated in an interactive meeting with the entire student body of the college -- the first law school west of the Alleghenies and the fourth-oldest continuously operating law school in the country.
Antonio Zuñiga, who attended the UC-hosted International Innocence Project conference