Through a new partnership with the Innocence Project of Iowa, Buena Vista University criminology and criminal justice and pre-law students will review selected cases of individuals who claim to have been wrongly convicted of crimes.
“Buena Vista students will play an important role in our efforts to examine wrongful conviction claims in Iowa,” says Brian Farrell, co-founder and president of the Project (www.iowainnocence.org), and director of academic achievement at the University Of Iowa College Of Law.
Students will examine each case from arrest through appeal, looking for evidence of innocence under the guidance of professors. Though most cases are expected to involve working with information already gathered, some cases will involve fieldwork, such as contacting investigators or expert witnesses to clarify testimony.
In October, students from Lambda Phi – BVU’s chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society – finished reviewing their first case. They found no evidence of innocence and recommended that no further work be done. They are currently working on an arson case.
“This is a great experience for the students to see a real criminal case from start to finish,” says Dr. Neal McNabb, assistant professor of criminal justice. “It provides students with hands-on experience with the criminal justice system and an opportunity to build their resumes with meaningful volunteer work.”
Before BVU students receive the cases, they will be reviewed by paralegal students from Iowa Lakes Community College, who will ensure the cases meet Project requirements. If BVU students determine there is evidence that an individual may be innocent they will report their findings to the Project’s screening committee along with recommendations on how to proceed.