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Kristi Martel interns with the Montana Innocence Project
July 9, 2012
At least 300 wrongfully convicted individuals nationwide have been exonerated and freed from prison thanks to the efforts of various Innocence Projects in the United States. This summer, Kristi Martel ’13 is helping to increase that number as an intern at the Montana Innocence Project.
"With help from law students, our small organization can examine many more cases and help more people than we otherwise could," said Jessie McQuillan, executive director of the Montana Innocence Project, a 501c3 organization founded in 2008 by a group of public officials, attorneys, journalists and professors. "And students benefit, too, because our hands-on training about the justice system provides such valuable experience."
Martel is part of a team of law students, lawyers, journalism students and criminology students working on behalf of incarcerated inmates who have exhausted their trial and appeals options and still maintain their innocence. Martel combs through case files, searching for something that could give the inmate a chance at a new evidentiary hearing—a rape kit that was never examined, flawed expert testimony, conflicting eyewitness reports, or undisclosed evidence. “I scour their files looking for one nugget of probative evidence that might have been overlooked or that could be developed,” she said. While criminal case files can be graphic and sometimes difficult to read, Martel explains that her compassionate and dedicated colleagues—seven interns and three attorneys—make dealing with the subject matter easier.
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