CALIFORNIA INNOCENCE PROJECT STUDENTS

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SARAH





Hi! My name is Sarah and I am a second-year law student at California Western School of Law. My interest in miscarriages of justice began back in my home country, England, when I was studying for my degree. My University launched its own Innocence Project and it was there that I worked with some incredible people and started learning about the causes and realities of wrongful conviction. It was an eye-opening experience for me; one which challenged every preconception I had about western justice systems. It showed me first-hand how easily a wrong outcome can occur and the impact that decision has on all those involved. Crucially, it taught me that while mistakes may be inevitable, it is how we respond to them that really matters and this is where I believe the system is lacking. Three years of work at the UK Innocence Project eventually led me to San Diego, where I interned for two summers with CIP. This ultimately ended up changing the direction of my life, as it was watching the incredible work of our attorneys and students in freeing the wrongfully convicted that motivated me to apply to law school in the U.S. So here I am, living out that dream and I am so excited to finally be a CIP clinic student!

When I graduate, I want to become a criminal defense attorney and continue to provide a voice for those in need. I want my work to make a difference, and I hope that CIP is just the first step towards that goal.

THOMAS B.





Hello, I’m Thomas B., a second-year law student at California Western School of Law. I attended San Diego State University and graduated in 2016 with a degree in Criminal Justice. I am currently serving in the United States Army Reserve. I served in Afghanistan in 2014 taking online classes from San Diego State University. While attending San Diego State in 2015, staff attorney Mike Semanchik came to talk at my class. Mike brought Herman Atkins with him, an exonerated man. After listening to Herman’s story, I couldn’t believe there were people in prison who did not belong there. I always thought our criminal justice system worked properly and people that were there should be there. I wanted to get involved anyway I could to help get people like Herman out of prison. Luckily, Mike told us about volunteering with them if we were interested. I emailed him right away and begun to intern with the office. I have been working with them since August 2015. I have always wanted to attend law school growing up. My family always said since you like to argue so much you should be a lawyer. Here I am in law school hoping to make a change. I choose to come to California Western School of Law because as a student I would be able to do what I am doing now, be a student intern, handling real cases and making a difference.

DIANA





Hi my name is Diana and I am from Long Island, New York. I attended The Ohio State University for my undergraduate education, where I was a Morrill Scholarship recipient for students with strong academics and a commitment to diversity. I received a degree in Communications with minors in both Political Science and Psychology. My undergraduate education also included abroad studies in Sydney, Australia at the University of Sydney and in London, England at the University of Richmond. I have always been interested in the justice system and wanted to continue my education by pursuing a career in law. In pursuing this and applying to law schools, I learned about the California Innocence Project and chose to attend California Western School of Law in order to be a part of this amazing organization. There is nothing more rewarding than coming home from work every day knowing what you are doing is helping people and making a difference in the world. The work done by the California Innocence Project definitely achieves this gratifying work-life balance by helping innocent men and woman get the freedom they deserve.

ADAM





Hi my name is Adam and I am a second year law student at Cal Western. I am born and raised in San Diego, CA and attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where I studied Political Science and Theater. Growing up with family working in the criminal justice system has allowed me to have an up close and personal view of the San Diego legal community from a young age. I first learned of the California Innocence Project at the beginning of my first year at law school and knew that my legal education experience would not be complete if I did not involve myself in this program. I hope to use this valuable experience to become the best possible attorney I can be and make a mark on the San Diego Criminal Justice System.

CHRISTINA





Hello, my name is Christie. I was raised in Ventura County California. I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo in Marine Science with a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduation, I continued to live in Hawai’i and utilized my degree while working within the marine science field. I quickly learned if I truly want to make a difference in this world I would need my Juris Doctorate. In researching law schools, I came across the California Innocence Project and decided I would attend California Western. I am so incredibly blessed to have an opportunity to work with the California Innocence Project and fight for those who have been wrongfully convicted. My goal is to be an attorney that uses her passion as a catalyst to help protect someone or something that has fallen victim.

JASMINE





Hi! My name is Jasmine and I’m from San Diego. I’m a proud USC Trojan who majored in Communication. I was a late bloomer when it came to figuring out what direction I wanted to take my life because I wanted my passion to drive me into a specific field. By my senior year of college, thanks to an incredible experience in a Law and Psychology class, I knew that law school was the right path for me. My dad was actually the one who told me about the California Innocence Project and when I learned about their mission it became my only goal to come to California Western School of Law and be a part of the program. For me, I only want to pursue opportunities that I truly have a passion for because as I have learned all too often, life is too short to do something just to fill time. One of the biggest motivators for me to work with CIP comes from the fact that my dad was the victim of a bad identification himself and was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Because of this, my empathy for all of those wrongfully convicted runs deep and I look forward to using my time in the program to one day help them regain their freedom.

AISLINN





Hello! I’m Aislinn.  I grew up in a small “stagecoach town” in southern California, but until I went to college I would have sworn Banning, CA was a buzzing suburb. I was raised in a low-income household. That upbringing stoked the embers of altruism in me, and inspired me to pursue a career where I could help others in need. In the 8th grade my class was given an assignment to read the United States Constitution, and that is when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I attended The University of California, San Diego where I earned my B.A. in History. As I started researching law schools I found the California Innocence Project was based out of California Western and I knew I had to be a part of the project. This past summer I worked in the San Diego County Office of the Public defender as a legal intern. I am now a second year student at California Western School of Law, an intern with the California Innocence Project, and a proud advocate for the wrongfully convicted.

CHING-YUN





Hello! My name is Ching-Yun and I am a second-year student at California Western School of Law. I was born in Hong Kong, but shortly after the Tiananmen Square protests, my parents decided to immigrate to Los Angeles in hopes that I would grow up in a country which not only tolerated freedom of speech, but valued it.

Prior to attending law school, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy with a minor in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine. Initially interested in student advocacy and public interest non-profit organizations, I ultimately became a criminal defense investigator at the San Diego County Office of the Alternate Public Defender, where I worked predominantly on felony cases. Working in investigations showed me firsthand just how crucial of a role a defendant’s attorney plays in the criminal justice system, and those experiences inspired me to pursue a law degree.

This year, my goal as a clinical student is to make a significant impact on the lives of those who have been wrongfully convicted and help them get one step closer to the justice and freedom they deserve. Please consider supporting me on this journey by making a donation today!

DYLAN





Hello! My name is Dylan Contreras, originally from the valley of the sun—Phoenix, Arizona. I earned my undergraduate degree at Western New Mexico University in Psychology with a minor in Political Science. Going to law school and becoming a lawyer has been a long time dream of mine. I first learned of California Western and the Innocence Project in the summer of 2012, when Brian Banks was exonerated. At the time, I was living with my aunt in Long Beach, CA only a short 3 miles away from the high school Brian Banks went to. Upon hearing this story I was completely blown away, and it was a that time, I knew I wanted to make a difference in a person’s life as did the Innocence Project did for Brian. Thus, being part of such an amazing group of people, all who are working towards a common goal of helping the innocent regain their freedom is truly, a dream come true. Cheers!

ESTHER





Hello! My name is Esther and I am a second-year student at California Western School of Law. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I lived in Los Angeles until I moved to Santa Barbara to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy. I lived in Santa Barbara for five years; four for college and one year I worked as a legal assistant at a private law firm. I then moved to San Diego to attend law school. I am the oldest of three children. I was raised by two hard working parents, who migrated to the United States at a very young age. Growing up, I was not aware I came from a “low-income” household. It was not until I moved to college that I realized how very little financial support my parents could provide for me. However, I was very fortunate to have many people along the way helping me out. I am extremely grateful for the parents I was blessed to have and the many privileges I have. The reason I came to California Western was to be part of the California Innocence Project. I believe it is my responsibility to take advantage of the privileges I have, to help people who have been less fortunate. It is a great honor to have the opportunity to help those who have been wrongfully convicted.

THOMAS M.





Hey, World! My name is Tommy, and I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I started college at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, but changed majors a few times before finishing with my B.A. in English. After graduating, I moved to New York City and worked for a market research company. While living in Brooklyn, I was fortunate enough to attend an event for the Innocence Project’s 20th anniversary which sparked my interest in the Innocence Movement. As my interest continued to grow, I became aware of the California Innocence Project and its clinical internship program which ultimately led to my decision to move to San Diego and attend California Western School of Law. Being accepted into the program and getting to work directly on cases of factual innocence is an opportunity that I am humbled to have.

REBECCA





Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am from Orange County, California. I studied marketing at California Lutheran University and ended my undergraduate experience with a “study abroad” program in our nation’s capital. As I transition from court to court (my first love being tennis, and now I move to the court of law), I hope to bring my passion for helping those in need to the California Innocence Project. It has been an honor to be selected to work with the Project, and I cannot wait to immerse myself in this enriching experience.

SIMRAN





Hello! My name is Sim and I am a second-year law student at California Western School of Law. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. I attended McMaster University for my undergraduate education and spent a year off before attending law school.

My decision to attend California Western School of Law was heavily influenced by California Innocence Project’s work. I remember wanting to be a criminal defense attorney from as far back as I can remember. In the legal world, it is difficult to decipher between representing truly innocent people versus people who are not. That is why I feel so truly blessed to be a part of the California Innocence Project’s wonderful team. Please donate and stay up to date, and play your part in the XONR8 movement!