Project for the Innocent

Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent (LPI) is dedicated to the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted. Loyola Law School students are the heart and soul of the clinic, which is yearlong.  If, after a thorough investigation of a case, a true claim of innocence is provable, clinic students will help draft a habeas petition so that the case can be litigated in court.

For how to apply to the Project for the Innocent, please go here.

Testimonials

Exonerated Client Kash Delano Register

On November 8, 2013, Kash Delano Register (pictured above) was freed from prison after serving 34 years for a murder he did not commit.  A judge threw out his conviction after a team of lawyers and law students from the Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, successfully argued that Register, 53, was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1979.

The release came just one day after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Katherine Mader found at the conclusion of the hearing that Register’s due process rights were violated by the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence and its use of false testimony at trial.

Register, who is African American, was convicted by an all-white jury in the robbery-homicide of an elderly white man in the Pico Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 18 years old at the time of his arrest. 

“I just want to thank everyone who believed in me,” Register said as he walked out of the Inmate Reception Center of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles and was greeted by the Loyola attorneys and law students who assisted him.

Register had steadfastly maintained his innocence for 34 years, despite being denied parole on 11 different occasions dating back to 1993. His mother, Wilma Register, testified in court that she had always taught her son: “The truth shall set you free.” 

Client Maria Mendez

LPI has several cases in the court system right now, including that of our client, Maria Mendez.  Maria is a mother of ten children and grandmother of 17.  She and her husband raised their family in Los Angeles as devout Christians, in a loving and caring home environment.  Her family and her church were Maria’s whole life. 

In December 2006, Maria’s life was turned upside down.  Maria’s 9-month-old grandson, Emmanuel, collapsed in her living room and stopped breathing.  He died shortly thereafter.  Six months later, in July 2007, despite the fact that Emmanuel had a history of very serious illness and a fall onto a cement floor when he was in his father’s care, Maria was charged with killing her grandson. 

Maria had no criminal record and had never been arrested before.  She is poor and speaks no English.  After a preliminary hearing, the Court actually dismissed the murder charge for insufficient evidence.  Nonetheless, prosecutors re-filed the charges.

Maria has never wavered in her innocence. She is now in her early 60s and will likely die in prison unless she is able to prove her innocence. Her family, including Emmanuel’s mother, stand by her.  They know she is innocent and would never have harmed her own grandson.  The truth is that Emmanuel was a very sick child who died of respiratory ailments—not at the hands of his own grandmother.

LPI has conducted an exhaustive investigation into Maria’s case and is now fighting Maria’s case through the court system.  Maria is one of several clients who are expected to have hearings this year on their cases.

Client Jaime Ponce

Jaime Ponce was 18 years old, working two jobs, and with no criminal record in the summer of 1998, when he was arrested and charged with attempted murder.  Two days earlier, a 15 year old gang member admitted to having participated in a non-injury shooting with another gang member -- who was not Jaime.   Despite the fact that Jaime was not a gang member and had nothing to do with the non-injury shooting, he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 47 years-to-life in prison. 

In the 19 years that Jaime has been behind bars, he has taught himself to speak, read and write in English.  He then taught himself how to fight his conviction and try to prove his innocence. And he has also taught himself to be a great artist.  Despite his wrongful conviction and throughout the horror of his life sentence, Jaime has remained optimistic.  He hopes and believes that the Project for the Innocent will soon win his case and he will walk free.

 

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 Artwork by Jaime Ponce

 

If you or a loved one have been wrongfully convicted and pursuing a claim of innocence, please contact Loyola’s Project for the Innocent at (213) 736-8141, or write to: Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School, 919 Albany Street, Los Angeles, CA  90015.