The Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies, formerly known as the Defender Project, was established at the University of Kansas School of Law in 1965. It was the first law school prisoner-assistance clinic in the country. Through the work of clinic attorneys and student interns, the Project assists indigent state and federal inmates incarcerated in Kansas who do not have access to legal representation. The Project’s mission is to rectify and draw attention to the injustices in the criminal justice system through claims of actual innocence, and habeas petitions challenging the fairness of the conviction. In the process, the Project works to instill in students compassion, understanding, and the need for zealous representation.
The Project litigates viable state and federal habeas petitions on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence, both factual and forensic. Under attorney supervision, student interns conduct fact investigation, create case strategy, draft pleadings, and prepare for and participate in hearings. The Project receives more than 300 letters each year from Kansas inmates asking for help.
Three Project alums, whose careers were shaped by their experience in the clinic, currently run the Project. Jean Phillips, who joined the Project in 1994, has been the director of the Project since 1999. Beth Cateforis joined the Project in 1999 and Alice Craig joined in 2004. In the last ten years, the Project has obtained reversals in in numerous cases, including four first degree murder convictions.
Recognizing a shared interest in exonerating innocent individuals, in 2014, the Project and the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) joined forces to further the goals of freeing the wrongfully convicted. Understanding that collectively the Project and MIP are more effective, the partnership increases the ability of each organization to seek justice for innocent individuals.
Through its relationship with MIP, Project attorneys and student interns investigate cases of actual innocence. To successfully litigate innocence cases, extensive investigation is required to locate new evidence. Whether it is obtaining DNA testing, litigating changes in science, establishing faulty eye witness identification, or proving a false confession, actual innocence investigations are challenging. The partnership between the Project and MIP utilizes the knowledge and resources of both organizations to provide assistance to more individuals wrongfully convicted in Kansas. In 2015, MIP and the Project won the release of Floyd Bledsoe, who served 16 years for a murder and molestation he did not commit. Currently, the Project is the process of investigating 10 additional MIP cases of actual innocence in the State of Kansas.
All applications for assistance should be directly sent to the Midwest Innocence Project at:The Midwest Innocence Project
605 West 47th Street, Suite 222
Kansas City, MO 64112
More information can be found at https://law.ku.edu/innocence-project.