Jennifer Givens Joins Innocence Project Clinic as Legal Director

Experienced Litigator Will Co-Teach Class, Investigate and Try Cases
Jennifer Givens

"Exposing the law students to cases from the clinic will encourage them to put their talents to good use," Jennifer Givens said.

August 11, 2015

Litigation veteran Jennifer Givens has joined the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law as legal director.

In her new role, Givens will work with students as they investigate and litigate wrongful convictions of inmates in Virginia. She will co-teach the classroom portion of the clinic with Director of Investigation Deirdre Enright , investigate cases and file pleadings, and help evaluate which cases the clinic will take. Because some of the cases may go to court, Givens' role will include litigation and related efforts in those situations.

"This is an area of law that I feel very passionately about, so I feel fortunate to be able to do this critically important work," Givens said. "I'm looking forward to being a part of the Law School community and working with the exceptional students and faculty as we do our best to serve the interest of the clinic's clients."

Most recently, Givens worked in Philadelphia as an assistant federal defender with the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She also previously handled death penalty appeals at the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center in Richmond and in Charlottesville. Her career successes include securing a grant of clemency for a severely mentally ill client and winning a life sentence for an intellectually disabled client, both of whom had been sentenced to death in Virginia.

"The same types of issues are generally at play in all of these cases," she said. "We'll re-examine cases in the hopes of determining what went wrong at trial."

Givens has served as an adjunct professor at Temple University School of Law and has regularly spoken at local and national capital habeas corpus trainings and conferences. She is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania and Georgia bars. She earned her J.D. from DePaul University in Chicago, and her undergraduate degree from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Enright said Givens will make a strong addition to the clinic team.

"The Innocence Project at UVA School of Law couldn't be more pleased to welcome Jennifer Givens as our new legal director," Enright said.

"There are only a handful of lawyers in the whole country who can claim the necessary legal expertise that Professor Givens can, having devoted her entire legal career to the post-conviction defense of both state death row clients in Virginia and federal death row clients while working in Pennsylvania. She is a necessary asset to both of our clinics — the Innocence Project clinic and the student volunteer group, the Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic — and of course, to all our clients."

Givens said she is looking forward to helping foster student interest in criminal post-conviction work.

"The criminal justice system remains in desperate need of talented and devoted lawyers," she said. "And the system certainly remains in dire need of prosecutors and defenders who are smart, fair and committed to their responsibilities under the constitution. Exposing the law students to cases from the clinic will encourage them to put their talents to good use in that respect."

The clinic began in 2008, and since then has helped Virginia clients wrongly convicted in murder, rape and robbery cases, helped clear the state's backlog of untested DNA samples and helped change court procedure on exculpatory evidence. The clinic is also popularly known for its recent involvement in " Serial ," the hit podcast that re-examined a murder conviction in Maryland.

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Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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