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Post Conviction DNA Project - Duquesne University School of Law

This year-long Post-Conviction DNA Project is designed to provide students with an understanding of the core problems in our criminal justice system that lead to the wrongful convictions of factually innocent men and women. Using our own case management materials, students review Pennsylvania inmate case files and prisoners’ correspondence with the aim of identifying petitions that present plausible facts and arguments to support an actual innocence claim by way of post-conviction DNA testing. In this light, substantive lectures and presentations are designed to familiarize the student with the various indicia that lead to wrongful convictions. In addition, students are exposed to post-conviction proceedings in the state and federal systems, state and federal public policy initiatives, and a foundation for understanding DNA as an identification science. Substantive lectures are also provided regarding the importance of the medical/legal death investigation and pertinent case law, post-conviction investigations, public policy developments, and post-conviction proceedings. Students have the opportunity to interact with recent exonerees who serve as consultants to the project. Individual and/or small group conferences on individually assigned case files are regularly held throughout the academic year. Time sheets and limited office hours are required. Under supervision, students are expected to prepare post-conviction petitions  for relief when necessary. Enrollment in the project is limited. It is suggested, though not required, that students submit a one-page abstract on why they are choosing this class.

John T. Rago, Esq.
Associate Professor of Law
Duquesne University, BA, JD