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September 6, 2013

Big changes at Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions

by Dan Rodriguez

To:                  Faculty and Staff                  

 From:            Dan Rodriguez and Tom Geraghty

 Re:                 New and exciting changes in leadership at The Center on Wrongful Convictions

 Date:             Friday, September 6

 


The new academic year will bring exciting changes in the leadership ranks of the Law School’s renowned Center on Wrongful Convictions (“CWC”).

Rob Warden, the co-founder of the CWC, will retire at the end of the academic year in August 2014, when he will assume the role of Executive Director Emeritus of the CWC.  Warden, an investigative journalist whose reporting has helped to free scores of innocent men, co-founded the CWC with former Northwestern Law Professor Larry Marshall in the Spring of 1999.  The CWC was founded in the wake of a historic conference on wrongful convictions and the death penalty that was held at the Law School in November 1999.  The Conference, which gathered together the largest ever number of exonerated death row inmates on the stage of the Law School’s Thorne Auditorium, focused the country and the world on the risk of executing the innocent and helped to reframe the debate about the death penalty.

In the fifteen years since the CWC’s founding, Warden and Marshall’s work and the work of the CWC’s staff and attorneys influenced then-Illinois Governor George M. Ryan’s decision first to declare a moratorium on the death penalty and then to grant clemency to all of the remaining Illinois death row inmates in January 2003.  The Illinois legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty and Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to sign the abolition bill into law would never have happened were it not for the work of Rob Warden and the CWC. Under Warden’s leadership, the work of the CWC has also spurred wide-ranging reforms aimed at preventing wrongful convictions.  Most recently, Rob was an invited guest of Illinois State Rep. Scott Drury when Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill expanding the requirement that interrogations of homicides be electronically recorded to include other serious felonies.  Warden has also been a prodigious scholar since arriving at Northwestern, publishing numerous law review articles and several books on subjects related to wrongful convictions and the death penalty.  He has also spurred the creation of a network of innocence clinics around the country.

“Rob Warden’s articles on criminal justice inspired me when I was a young lawyer,” says CWC colleague Karen Daniel, “and it has been my great privilege to work with him and have his encyclopedic knowledge of wrongful convictions and legal history right down the hall from me for these past 13 years.”

No single person has done more than Rob Warden to advance the cause of the wrongfully convicted.  We are excited that we will celebrate his accomplishments during the 15th year anniversary of the CWC’s founding.  And we look forward to continuing to benefit from his wisdom this year and in the future as he assumes emeritus status.

On September 1, 2013, Steven Drizin, the CWC’s Legal Director, is leaving his post to accept a promotion as Assistant Dean at the Bluhm Legal Clinic.  In that capacity, he will work more closely with the two of us and other key stakeholders to chart the future course of the Bluhm Legal Clinic.  Drizin, a 1986 graduate of Northwestern Law School, has been teaching at the law school since 1991 and has served as the CWC’s Legal Director for over eight years.  He will continue to teach, supervising students on some wrongful conviction cases but adding more traditional juvenile defender work, criminal appeals, and clemency cases to the mix.  We are delighted that Steve will be working with us to strengthen the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s programs.  Steve brings exceptional experience, knowledge, dedication, and skill to his new post.

Karen Daniel and Jane Raley, the two most senior staff attorneys at the CWC, will become co-Legal Directors of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.  Karen, a 1981 graduate of Harvard Law School, and Jane, a 1982 graduate of Indiana University School of Law, were the first staff attorneys hired by the CWC in 2000 after distinguished careers at the Office of the State Appellate Defender in Illinois.  Karen and Jane have co-taught their Clinical Practice Course on wrongful convictions since their arrival at Northwestern and have been responsible for the bulk of the CWC’s exonerations since its founding.

“Karen and Jane were the obvious choices to take over as Legal Directors,” said Drizin.  “They are two of the finest post-conviction and appellate attorneys in the country, often finding creative ways to win for their innocent clients where others before them have failed.”

Karen and Jane are also two of our most highly regarded teachers at the Clinic.  They will inspire colleagues and students to provide the best possible service to our clients and to our system of justice.  The CWC is one of the crown jewels of the Law School and has thrived under Steve and Rob’s leadership.  We have every confidence that the CWC will rise to new and even more astounding heights with Karen and Jane at the helm.

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