WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocent Project receives $300k grant to support forensic case review


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Western Michigan University (WMU) Cooley Law School $300,000 in grant funding to screen post-conviction claims of innocence.

In 2019, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project (Project) received the first Upholding the Rule of Law grant. This new award adds on to the two extra years of funding to the original grant.

It supports accuracy with reviewing criminal convictions for forensic errors and tracking data to enhance the criminal justice system.

“Working alongside our Conviction Integrity Unit partners has broadened the scope of the work that we are able to do in the state of Michigan. We are pleased that the Department of Justice has recognized this important work and provided resources for us to continue our partnerships and help fund our efforts to free Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted.” 

Tracey Brame, WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director

The Project has partnered with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit for years to screen cases in which forensic practices that are not reliable contributed to incorrect conviction.

This year, the Project achieved three exonerations–Kenneth Nixon (Wayne County), Gilbert Poole (Oakland County), and Corey McCall (Berrien County). These accomplishments were held up by federal grant funding.

The award will give funds to support forensic case review and expert consultation as well as pay the salaries of two part-time attorneys.

The aspirations of this project with Wayne County’s and the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Units is to check 400 cases that have claims of innocence.

The funding will go towards case review in a timely manor and support the availability of post-conviction DNA testing statewide.

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