Because I received a PILP stipend, I was able spend the summer working at the Oregon Innocence Project. I worked on several post conviction cases at various stages of the appeals process. The majority of my time was spent writing sections of a federal habeas corpus petition; my portion involved examining the complex procedural issues present in the case, as well as writing a lengthy ineffective assistance of counsel argument. In another case, I investigated aspects of the original crime and pulled information on people who we would want to interview. At other times I helped evaluate and investigate new inquiries from inmates claiming they were wrongfully convicted. Working at OIP taught me a lot about post conviction work, but it was also the first legal experience I’ve had where I felt like I was part of a team of people equally committed to the cause and where every voice was valued.
Because OIP shares its office with the Oregon Justice Resource Center, I was also able to observe and participate in the OJRC’s efforts to raise public awareness of criminal justice reform issues. Witnessing the daily operation of OJRC at first hand made me realize that a small group of committed people can actually change the legal system for the better. On the whole, my time in the OIP and OJRC offices was not only useful for substantive legal knowledge, but also for helping me understand that my efforts can have a positive, lasting impact on how the criminal justice system treats people.