Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies

Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies

Former KU Law Professor Paul E. Wilson founded what was then the Defender Project in 1965 to help prisoners who otherwise might not receive legal representation. Students in the clinic represent state and federal prisoners in appellate and post-conviction litigation in state and federal courts, including: 

  • conducting fact investigations
  • drafting pleadings
  • filing motions
  • preparing for hearings
  • creating case strategy

Since 2009, students in the Project have won at least 28 conviction reversals. That same year, a project team won a rare grant of executive clemency for a man convicted of robbery during a racially charged civil rights-era trial in Wichita, Kan. The project gets more than 200 letters a year from inmates seeking assistance.

Innocent after proven guilty? Michael Kelly, L'11

Michael Kelly, L'11

Michael Kelly, L’11, finds it both exhilarating and frightening to hold another human being’s freedom in his hands. That’s essentially the position he assumed last year in the Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies. His standout case involved a man serving a 23-year prison sentence on an aggravated sexual battery conviction. After meeting with the defendant, his family, his trial attorney, witnesses and accusers, Kelly became convinced of the defendant’s innocence and is “humbly confident” that the judge will grant his motion for a new trial. “With the backlog of cases that are waiting for defense attorneys,” Kelly said, “it was really powerful for me to be able to help someone and at the same time gain valuable, practical experience as a young lawyer.”

Students enroll for two semesters, for four credits total per semester or for five credits during the summer. The course is open to second- or third-year students and satisfies the upper-level writing requirement. Criminal Procedure is a co- or pre-requisite.

Download an application (PDF)




Jean Phillips
Director, Project for Innocence
Clinical Professor of Law

Student Experience

The Project for Innocence helped achieve executive clemency for Frederick Umoja in 2009. He later visited KU Law to speak with Project students, and his talk had a lasting impact on Alyssa Boone, L'12. She wrote of Mr. Umoja and his daughter, "They are why most of us do it: because our legal education allows us to be the voice of justice in our community." Read the blog

Why KU
  • One-third of full-time faculty have written casebooks used at U.S. law schools
  • 2 KU law faculty were U.S. Supreme Court clerks
  • KU’s Project for Innocence: 33 conviction reversals since 2009
  • 7,300+ alumni live in all 50 states and 18 foreign countries
  • #18 “best value” law school in the nation — National Jurist Magazine
  • 12 interdisciplinary joint degrees
  • 27th nationwide for lowest debt at graduation. — U.S. News & World Report
  • 70 percent of upper-level law classes have 25 or fewer students
  • Nearly 800 employment interviews at law school, 2012-13
  • Top 25% for number of 2013 grads hired by the nation’s largest law firms
  • 20th: for number of law alumni promoted to partner at the 250 largest law firms