January 10, 2024

Kelsey M. Chapman-Sutton

Criminal Justice Reform Clinic
Portland, Oregon

This summer, I had the privilege of interning at the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School.

At the CJRC, I focused on researching and writing about the innocence movement and innocence law. Professor Kaplan and the CJRC are aiming to open doorways for those who are innocent to pursue relief, even if they cannot show procedural defects or constitutional violations. An allegation of innocence is not grounds for relief in many states — and even in states where it is possible, it is typically extremely difficult and/or the statutory or caselaw is limited. Although actual innocence claims are not barred by federal law, they are similarly challenging to succeed on. Learning about the nuances of these issues, and possible alternative approaches, was challenging and enlightening.

I will be continuing my internship with the CJRC this fall. My next project will focus on the status of the death penalty in Oregon given recent developments, as well as providing updates on all the individuals with death sentences. I will also be looking back toward the history of the death penalty in Oregon, to understand how capital punishment has evolved in the state; the costs, challenges, and concerns it has caused; and how the law has failed offenders, victims, attorneys, and the public at large.

I feel deeply grateful to Lewis & Clark Law School, the Public Interest Law Project, and those who contribute to it. This stipend made working on such important issues possible. Financial assistance makes an enormous difference for students pursuing public interest work. I would also like to thank Professor Kaplan for her kindness, generosity, mentorship, and encouragement. I feel honored to be the recipient of an award in her name.