Law students who attend Campbell, Elon, NCCU, and UNC participate in student run organizations that assist the Center in its review and investigation of innocence claims. By collaborating with the law schools, the Center ensures the efficient review of claims while providing an opportunity for future attorneys to work on real cases, learn from the past work of other attorneys, develop professional skills, and appreciate the value of pro bono legal assistance.
In order to increase efficiency and avoid duplication of efforts, the Center previously screened all intake for the Duke University Law School Wrongful Convictions Clinic. Cases initially screened by the Center and referred to Duke’s Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility for further investigation have resulted in six exonerations:
- 2010 – Shawn Massey, Exonerated After 11 Years in Prison
- 2010 – Jonathan Scott Pierpoint, Exonerated After 18 Years in Prison
- 2012 – LaMonte Armstrong, Exonerated After 18 Years in Prison
- 2012 – Noe Moreno, Exonerated After 5 Years in Prison
- 2014 – Michael Parker, Exonerated After 20 Years in Prison
- 2016 – Howard Dudley, Exonerated After 24 Years in Prison
The state-funded North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was established to supplement the work of other North Carolina innocence organizations in cases where procedural bars prevent resolution through the standard postconviction processes or when the statutory powers of the Commission, particularly its search powers, may be helpful to the resolution of the innocence claim. The Center’s Executive Director, in cooperation with other members of Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr.’s study group, had a lead role in drafting and spearheading the passage of the legislation which established the Commission in 2006.
North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services also investigates innocence claims, but the focus of its work is on issues in criminal cases that are not necessarily innocence-related, such as sentencing issues. When the Center reviews a case where innocence cannot be proven, but there is an indication that the defendant may not have received a fair trial or sentence, the Center will refer the case to NCPLS.