A Tuesday fundraiser for the Virginia Innocence Project Pro Bono Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law included stories of wrongful conviction and a $50,000 matching-fund challenge to prospective donors.
“The ultimate goal is to raise enough money to hire a fellow to assist myself and Legal Director Jennifer Givens in supervising cases,” said Deirdre Enright ’92, the project’s director of investigation, following the event. “That way, the clinic can include more students — there’s a waitlist — and more potential clients. There’s currently a backlog of more than 1,000 cases.”
Some of the project’s now-released clients were on hand for the fundraiser and shared their stories with the audience. They included Darnell Phillips, Messiah Johnson, Emerson Stevens and Gary Bush.
The Innocence Project worked on several of the cases for six to nine years.
Others who were freed after wrongful convictions and were in attendance included Beverly Monroe, David Boyce and Edgar Coker.
Speaking on a panel at the event about where the justice system can go wrong were attorney Dean Strang ’85, who was featured on “Making a Murderer,” a Netflix true-crime documentary; Jarrett Adams, a lawyer who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at age 17; and Jason Flom, a founding board member of the national Innocence Project who hosts the podcast “Wrongful Conviction.”
Flom, who was also founder and CEO of Lava Records, offered a challenge — he would match up to $50,000 raised for the pro bono clinic.
Those who wish to donate still can. Gifts can be made online. Donors may also text “VIRGINIA” to 41444. Checks can be sent to: UVA Law School Foundation, 580 Massie Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903-1738.
Donors should designate funds “for the Innocence Project.”
The pro bono clinic works alongside the for-credit Innocence Project Clinic on behalf of wrongfully convicted persons in Virginia. It allows student volunteers to gain experience investigating cases, writing briefs, and speaking with and visiting clients, witnesses and other key people during investigations.
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.