Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & 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, Kansas. The project gets more than 200 letters a year from inmates seeking assistance.
Ensuring justice through the Project for Innocence
Quentin Aker, L’20
My year as an intern in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence improved my legal writing, lawyering and client-management skills, and appellate advocacy. Interns also receive a first-hand look at the criminal justice system and the post-conviction remedies available to wrongfully incarcerated individuals.
Every intern in the Project works with at least one other partner under the supervision of a licensed attorney. As a team, you are wholly responsible for your clients’ cases. It is simultaneously nerve-wracking and empowering. It is invaluable experience because interns are able to interview clients in prison, to visit federal and state correctional facilities, and to draft important legal documents.
Interns also work on their people skills, too. This was by far my favorite part. As an intern, I got to directly communicate with court clerks, other attorneys, correctional-facility staff, a diverse range of expert witnesses, family members of the client, and law enforcement officers. You just can’t get that kind of experience in any other class!
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.
The Project for Innocence application deadline was extended to Friday, March 19, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.
Download an application (PDF)