Christopher Lawson, former CIP clinical intern, shares how CIP helped shape who he is as a lawyer today. Christopher is now a prosecutor with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.
My time with the California Innocence Project, without question, helped mold me into the attorney and prosecutor that I am today. I learned invaluable skills in legal writing, case investigation, and how to effectively present a case to a sometimes critical audience with our mandatory case presentations in the clinic. Every motion or brief I write today is unquestionably shaped by Professor Stiglitz’s emphatic disdain of the use of pronouns. His constant “constructive criticism” is a practical tool I often share with our new interns and law clerks who are seeking to become better legal writers.
People often ask me about my experiences with CIP, how it has translated to my current job as a prosecutor, and how I could do both jobs. My response has always been that the mission of the attorneys at the CIP and prosecutors at the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is the same – protection of the innocent and to seek the truth. In fact, the “protection of the innocent” is part of the District Attorney’s mission statement. Further proof of that symmetry is that our Office works closely with CIP in the pursuit of that goal through the DA’s Conviction Review Unit.
I’ve always believed that CIP was a great training ground for my current career as a prosecutor. My experience with CIP impressed upon me the gravity of the responsibility that comes with being a prosecutor, a first-hand appreciation for why you turn over every stone in the search for the truth, and a full appreciation of the very real consequences that can occur if the justice system fails.