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Course Details

Externship: Pennsylvania Innocence Project (Bluestine)

Spring 2023   LAW 811-001  

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Marissa Boyers Bluestine

Assistant Director

Additional Information
Experiential Course


Skills Training
Drafting Legal Documents
Other Professional Skills:

100% Other (Fieldwork and grading is pass/fail)

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets in person.

Meeting Times/Location



** STUDENTS MUST BE AVAILABLE WEDNESDAYS FROM 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM FOR PA INNOCENCE PROJECT STAFF MEETINGS AND TRAININGS, and they highly prefer you are able to spend the entire day on Wednesday working in their office.


This clinical program offers students the unique opportunity to exercise their lawyering skills by reviewing and investigating claims of innocence on behalf of Pennsylvania prisoners. Each student will be assigned cases under the supervision of Project attorneys. In the course of investigating factual claims and researching legal issues, students may review criminal files, interact with investigators, contact other attorneys, interview the client and witnesses, gather documentation, and prepare legal documents and memoranda. Students may have the opportunity to observe court appearances and visit Pennsylvania prisons. As a consequence of this work, students will have many opportunities to develop and hone their lawyering skills in interviewing, fact investigation, factual and legal analysis, legal writing, and problem-solving. The classroom component will cover topics including the key contributing factors to wrongful convictions, the state and federal legal framework for litigating innocence cases, investigative techniques and skills, the nature and uses of DNA and other scientific evidence, and re-entry challenges for exonerated individuals. As the semester progresses, students will explore the substantive and procedural issues in the context of the actual cases on which they are working as well as discuss the ethical issues common to this area of practice. Students are encouraged to be available for the full day on Wednesdays to work on their cases at the PAIP office.

**TWO ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS:** 1. Students meet at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project office in Center City from 11am-1pm each WEDNESDAY for a seminar. This is a 4 credit externship, requiring students to complete a minimum of 12 hours each week of the semester. 2. Students must be able to attend a bi-weekly one-hour tutorial session at a mutually agreed upon time that will be conducted by Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Assistant Director, Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.

Course Concentrations

Skills Learning outcomes: Demonstrate an understanding of the individual course skill; Demonstrate the ability to receive and implement feedback; Demonstrate an understanding of how and when the individual course skill is employed in practice.

Criminal Law and Procedure Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of criminal law and procedure; Perform legal analysis in the context of criminal law and procedure; Communicate effectively on topics related to criminal law and procedure; Demonstrate an understanding of the role criminal law and procedure play in society and their impact on other areas of law and society.

Public Interest Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of the varied legal aspects of public interest law; Perform legal analysis in the context of public interest law; Communicate effectively on topics related to public interest law; Demonstrate an understanding of how public interest law is connected to and affected by a wide variety of legal and regulatory structures and doctrines.