About the Institute

The Institute for Actual Innocence is a multifaceted academic program within the University of Richmond School of Law. The institute partners with attorneys and community leaders to seek post-conviction relief for wrongfully convicted prisoners in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The institute operates primarily under two Virginia statutes that provide an avenue for wrongfully convicted prisoners to seek post-conviction relief and takes cases on the basis of newly discovered biological and/or non-biological evidence that strongly supports a prisoner's innocence.

Academic Program
Second and third year students working with the Institute for Actual Innocence take a two-credit Wrongful Convictions course. The course is oriented toward legal theory and addresses the many causes of wrongful convictions. Prominent guest lecturers are often part of the course offering.

Subjects covered by the course include:
  • Forensic science and DNA in the criminal justice system
  • Eyewitness identification issues
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel
  • False confessions
  • Remedies and reform
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
The small group seminar fosters dynamic class discussion and helps build the relationships necessary for the collaborative fieldwork that follows in the clinical program.

If you are a current, incoming, or prospective student interested in the classroom component of the institute, please contact the institute’s director, Mary Kelly Tate.
Clinical Program
The clinical component of the Institute for Actual Innocence is designed to provide students with real-world experience in case investigation. After a strenuous vetting of prisoner applications, the students and the director build an investigation strategy for each meritorious case.  

Students, with direct supervision from the director, reinvestigate the cases by analyzing trial and appellate records, interviewing witnesses, visiting crime scenes, and employing other investigative techniques. The clinical program operates on a law office model with emphasis on data management, case strategy, and student/lawyer collaboration. 

The clinical program is a two-credit course.
Advisory Board
The Institute for Actual Innocence has an advisory board composed of members of the legal, business, and academic communities from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The board of advisors provides leadership and guidance to the institute.

Advisory Board Members

Amanda N. Aghdami
Capital One Financial Corp.

David P. Baugh, Esq.
Attorney at Law

Robert M. Blue, Esq.
Managing Director
State Affairs and Corporate Public Policy

William G. Broaddus, Esq.
McGuire Woods, LLP

Alex Cecil, Esq.
Senior Managing Director
Scott & Stringfellow Inc.

Craig S. Cooley, Esq.
Attorney at Law

John Douglass, Esq.
Professor of Law & Director of Second Year Lawyering Skills Program
University of Richmond School of Law

Frederick R. Gerson, Esq.
Robinson & Gerson, P.C.

Philip Goodpasture, Esq.
Williams Mullen

Lori Elliott Jarvis, Esq.
Hunton & Williams, LLP

David J. Johnson, Esq.
Executive Director
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission

Corinna Lain, Esq.
Professor of Law
University of Richmond School of Law

Walter Nance, M.D., Ph.D.
Scientific Advisor for International Association for Identification
VCU- Department of Human Genetics

Margaret A. Nelson, Esq.
Attorney at Law

Institute for Actual Innocence

Mail all written requests and client intake forms to the following address:

Institute for Actual Innocence
University of Richmond School of Law
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173