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Students Work with Florida Innocence Commission


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Innocence Commission director Lester A. Garringer Jr. speaks with Stetson Law students.

Innocence Commission director Lester A. Garringer Jr. speaks with Stetson Law students. Click for high-resolution image.

Stetson University College of Law students will assist Florida’s newly created Innocence Commission with research into wrongful convictions and effective legal reform. Lester A. Garringer, Jr., the executive director of the Innocence Commission, met  with Stetson Law students and faculty on Sept. 21 in the Florin Roebig Courtroom.

“Working with the Innocence Commission is a wonderful opportunity for Stetson students to learn that effective advocacy does not just occur in the courtroom, but also in the halls of power where laws can be created to protect the innocent,” said professor Roberta Flowers, who co-directs the Innocence Initiative at Stetson University College of Law with professor Judith Scully.

 

 

Innocence Commission director Garringer addresses a packed courtroom at Stetson Law Tuesday evening.

Innocence Commission director Garringer addresses a packed courtroom at Stetson Law Tuesday evening. Click for high-resolution image.

Last fall, 20 Stetson Law students began assisting the Innocence Project of Florida with an overflow of case files. The Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law has grown to include more than 60 students working with 14 attorneys and a former judge, and has expanded to include three divisions. One division works on case files, one targets outreach and education, and another conducts research and analyzes reform.

“Our students and volunteer attorneys have already contributed hundreds of pro bono hours to this project in order to ensure its success,” said professor Scully. “Our goal is to use our advocacy skills on behalf of the wrongfully convicted to help re-balance the scales of justice.”

In the coming months, the Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law will be evaluating potential cases and claims, working to educate the student body at Stetson on wrongful conviction issues, and assisting the Florida Innocence Commission with research into effective legal reform.

“Analyzing reform is not the same as analyzing cases, where the end-game takes place in the courtroom,” said Gabe Neibergall, a Stetson student spearheading outreach for the Innocence Initiative. “For us, the last step will be making recommendations to the legislative branch, so we have to take more factors into account, such as legislative history, political climate, and police policy. It’s a problem-solving exercise, and one that is desperately needed in Florida.”

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, who began his term on July 1, created the Innocence Commission to study the causes of wrongful convictions and to recommend possible solutions.