A UH program is getting federal money to help free innocent inmates

The program analyzes DNA and new evidence to seek justice.

A UH program is getting federal money to help free innocent inmates
The William S. Richardson School of Law on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. (Source: University of Hawaii.)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A program at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law was recently awarded a hefty federal grant.

The university’s Hawaii Innocence Project (HIP) is a supervised law clinic that utilizes the latest in DNA tools and techniques to identify and seek exoneration of factually innocent inmates locked up in the local justice system.

Part of the students' studies include investigation and analyzation of new evidence, prepare post-conviction motions, file appeals and more.

Faculty specialist Ken Lawson is HIP’s co-director. He says many students who enroll in HIP pursue a course in law after moving on from the university.

“We hope they all leave with a burning desire to seek justice," Lawson said.

On Friday, UH announced the program was the recipient of a $567,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will cover the cost of DNA testing, which can be very expensive. Lawson said each case costs from $10,000 to $30,000.

Currently under the examination of HIP are 10 cases that involve DNA evidence. There are over a dozen more applications pending. The university said the program receives more than 100 requests for help from incarcerated individuals each year.

The team is made up staff and volunteers with at least 12 lawyers, two private investigators, two office aides and a DNA expert from the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

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