Photo of Ken Lawson, Uriah Courtney and Brian Banks at law school.
Ken Lawson, at left, with mainland exonerees Uriah Courtney, middle, and Brian Banks in 2017 at the law school.

The Hawaiʻi Innocence Project (HIP) at the William S. Richardson School of Law has been awarded a $567,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Competition for the grants is fierce.

HIP is a student-staffed, carefully supervised law clinic at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa that uses DNA and other sophisticated methods to identify and seek exoneration of factually innocent inmates in the local justice system.

HIP students investigate new evidence, prepare post-conviction motions, conduct hearings, argue motions and file appeals. The UH law school provides office space, equipment, administrative support and the services of faculty specialist Ken Lawson, HIP co-director.

Lawson is responsible for daily operations, fundraising, and recruitment and coordination of skilled volunteers, which currently include 12 lawyers, two private investigators, two office helpers and David Haymer, a DNA expert from the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Lawson said many of the students who take the HIP clinic end up practicing criminal law, either as prosecutors or defense lawyers. He said, “We hope they all leave with a burning desire to seek justice.”

The grant specifically covers the costs of DNA testing, which can be very expensive. Lawson said each case costs from $10,000 to $30,000.

HIP is currently working on 10 cases that involve DNA evidence and is investigating over a dozen more applications. The project also receives more than 100 requests for help each year from incarcerated inmates in Hawaiʻi’s penal system, and carefully evaluates each one.

See the full story on the law school website.