Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
Through a collaborative effort, the University of Arizona Innocence Project (UAIP) and the Aoki Conviction and Sentence Integrity Practicum at UC Davis (Practicum) seek to review and resolve cases involving postconviction claims of innocence in Pima County, Arizona.
The UAIP, an in-house clinic at the James E. Rogers College of Law, identifies, investigates, and advances credible claims of innocence on behalf of indigent individuals convicted in Arizona. Through trainings and community outreach, the UAIP also seeks to raise awareness of the causes of wrongful conviction and highlight the need for systemic reform.
The Practicum, a clinical program at the UC Davis School of Law, reviews and investigates cases on behalf of the Pima County Attorney’s Office. In 2020, a new, reform-minded County Attorney was elected in Pima County and immediately implemented key initiatives, including the establishment of the Conviction and Sentencing Integrity Unit (CSIU), an expanded and more robust program than its predecessor.
With the creation of this new CSIU, the UAIP and the Practicum are seeking grant funds to support a collaboration to more quickly and effectively identify and review Pima County cases with claims of innocence. Where a convicted individual has applied only to the CSIU, this proposed partnership will allow the Practicum to refer cases to the UAIP to ensure representation in meritorious cases. The UAIP and Practicum will engage in joint reinvestigation of cases under mutual review, thereby maximizing resources and efficiency. The partners will also work together to develop cooperation agreements and to implement best practices for preserving each side’s roles and responsibilities in cases under joint review. Where claims of innocence are substantiated, the UAIP and Practicum will work jointly toward relief and resolution.
With the support this grant will offer, the UAIP and the Practicum will increase capacity to resolve cases, identify systematic issues for reform, and serve as a model for similar partnerships across the state.