UW Law students score victories in criminal appeals courts

scalesUniversity of Wisconsin Law School students scored two wins for their clients in criminal appeals courts in July.

Meredith Stier and Elizabeth Bradley, students in the Federal Appeals Project, took their client’s case to the Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals to seek a reduction in his 188-month prison sentence on a drug conviction.

Working under the supervision of Professor Adam Stevenson, the students argued before the district court that inaccurate background information was used to establish its client’s prison term. They also argued that their client had not received an adequate explanation of his sentence.

In a decision handed down July 23, the court ruled in favor of the client and remanded his case for resentencing.

In a separate case, Wisconsin Innocence Project students successfully convinced the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District IV that their client did not receive a fair trial in 2006, which led to his conviction on sexual assault charges.

Under the supervision of Professor Byron Lichstein, students spent several years preparing their case — interviewing witnesses, analyzing evidence, and filing court documents — to prove that the state wrongly convicted the defendant on the false testimony of three witnesses.

Lichstein’s work — along with that of his students Bryan Chinwuba, Kara Kurland, Michael Black, Jackie Schwartz, and Josh Cornell — paid off for the client when the appeals court reversed his conviction on July 17. At press time, the state is reviewing the opinion to determine whether it will retry the case.

Both the Federal Appeals Project and the Wisconsin Innocence Project are part of the Frank J. Remington Center, home to the Law School’s clinical projects focusing on criminal justice issues.

According to Professor Carrie Sperling, acting director of the Remington Center, “These are two big wins for our students and for Professors Lichstein and Stevenson. They spent countless hours seeking justice for their clients, and their work was top notch.”