This summer, eight students from Notre Dame and beyond worked as interns at Notre Dame Law School’sExoneration Justice Clinic (EJC). These eight interns performed critical work on the EJC’s active cases and helped the EJC identify other innocent people incarcerated in Indiana.
The group included second-year Notre Dame Law students, Connor McCumber and Eric Wahoff; undergraduate Notre Dame seniors, Ella Cain and Kareema Green; and undergraduates from St. Olaf College, Else Madsen and Luke Simcox.
In addition, two students from Strathmore Law School in Nairobi, Kenya, also gained insight and valuable experience through two-week internships with the Exoneration Justice Clinic earlier in the summer.
The interns’ main responsibility was to help the clinic decide which cases to accept for legal representation. The law students were each paired with undergraduate students to form intake teams. Guided by staff attorneys, the students examined transcripts, exhibits, and other case materials in an effort to identify innocent people who had been wrongfully convicted and to uncover avenues for seeking legal relief. They also conducted research into the legal issues and investigated the facts of each case. At the end of the summer, they prepared comprehensive assessments of each case and recommendation memos for the clinic’s director and attorneys to review.
Jimmy Gurulé, professor of law and faculty director of the Exoneration Justice Clinic, said, “Our wrongfully convicted clients do not get the summer off. They remain incarcerated for a crime they did not commit. The students participating in the summer internship worked hard giving our clients hope and making valuable progress on their case. In the process, the students gained invaluable experience and insight into the criminal legal system.”
The interns also had an opportunity to meet with some of the clinic’s active clients. Second-year Notre Dame Law student Connor McCumber said that the field work, meeting with clients and possible witnesses to hear their side of the story, was one of the most meaningful experiences for him.
“I have very strong feelings on the criminal justice field and feel a strong sense of duty to play my part in correcting the mistakes our system makes. Working at the EJC as a member of the innocence community is an invaluable first step in achieving that goal,” said McCumber.
McCumber plans to practice criminal law and ideally continue with innocence work.
Luke Simcox was one of the undergraduate interns from St. Olaf College. He applied for the EJC internship through the Svoboda Legal Scholars program at St. Olaf College, a program that places students at different law clinics throughout the Midwest.
Simcox worked on three intake cases and one active case. He said the internship taught him a lot about the practice of law and the criminal justice system.
“The most rewarding experience for me was working on the case of our active client. I became very passionate about this case and the client's innocence. We were able to meet him, which made everything I was working on feel worth it,” said Simcox. “I hope that my work this summer will eventually play a role in his exoneration.”
Kareema Green, one of the undergraduate students from Notre Dame, said that working on the Clinic’s intake cases was both rewarding and impactful to her.
“Realizing how much an individual’s acceptance or declination as a potential client for the clinic depends on how thorough your work is really motivated me to do everything I could with great detail and effort to potentially move the client’s case forward,” said Green.
Green said she wanted to intern at the EJC since she came to Notre Dame.
“The EJC’s mission to correct the miscarriage of justice, the many wrongdoings of the law, and wrongful convictions is something I support tremendously,” said Green. “Being able to work for the EJC and seeing how much they truly embody that mission and are making a difference for the larger community has encouraged me to continue my future career path in criminal justice, criminal law, and innocence work.”
Originally published by law.nd.edu on August 25, 2023.at