The Street Law Program at Georgetown University Law Center places Georgetown law students in public high schools in DC to teach a course in practical law, or Street Law.  In the fall of 2011, as we brainstormed possible topics to engage our high school students when the law students were not teaching, Professor Roe suggested that we develop a unit based on the work of the Innocence Project.  The idea resonated immediately and we began exploring the available resources.  Surprisingly, there were very few lessons and no curriculum units designed to teach high school students about wrongful convictions, exonerations, and the important work of the Innocence Project.  So we decided to create one.

Our goals in designing this unit were multiple.  Most importantly, we sought to create:

  1. a learner-centered, engaging, and interactive unit that would give students an understanding of why wrongful convictions happen, use the compelling stories of the unjustly imprisoned men and women to illustrate the major themes, and illuminate what is being done to repair the damage already caused;
  2. a unit that would introduce students to the Innocence Project and help students understand what can be done to minimize the chances of future wrongful convictions and what students can do to make those protocols a reality;
  3. lessons that would connect with the students on an individual level by involving them as investigators in one hypothetical man’s wrongful conviction and asking them to do act to reverse that conviction;
  4. a unit that would provide students with a relevant and interesting introduction to the criminal justice system, criminal procedure, and criminal law, using the Innocence Project to explore how good lawyering, good police work, and a just and effective criminal justice system should operate;
  5. a unit that would introduce students to the realities of our legal system while also providing them with examples of how our legal system provides remedies and avenues to correct past injustices;
  6. a free online resource that would grow and evolve as other teachers and interested individuals contributed resources and lesson ideas.  

We hope that you and your students will find the lesson plans and resources engaging, informative, and eye-opening.   If you have any questions, feedback, or related lesson plans, please do not hesitate to contact us at streetlaw@law.georgetown.edu.  We welcome all constructive criticism and are eager to continue to grow this unit into a powerful tool for education and justice.