News 06.30.15

From the Inside: How the Innocence Project Changed the Life of One High School Senior


By Adrienne Travis


Adrienne 



recently graduated from high school at

Scarsdale High School and completed an internship at the Innocence Project.

 We congratulate her and thank her for her hard work.


All I expected from my senior year internship was a glance into the legal system and to see how the Innocence Project operates. Instead, I’ve reached a deeper understanding of what the law and our criminal justice system can be, and I’ve learned so much about 

First, the experiences of the current clients at the Innocence Project have reiterated to me how flawed our legal system can be. Coming into this internship I thought people were wrongfully convicted because all the evidence pointed at them, and even if it was a rushed decision, there was a reason behind why they were convicted. Now, after reading cases and speaking to employees I realize that in a lot of these cases nothing points to the convicted other than one person’s testimony or a tainted line-up or a coerced confession. The convicted person may have never been convicted of a crime before, had no connection to the victim or the location that the crime occurred and had a strong alibi, yet still get convicted. The notion that a case needs to be closed quickly has led to mistreatment of suspects and individuals in the criminal justice system. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Take time for all things, great haste makes great waste.”

Over the past six weeks, however, I’ve also seen firsthand that the law can be a source of hope. There are many complex perceptions, emotions and experiences involved when someone is wrongfully convicted. Everyone involved—from the Innocence Project clients and their families to the victims to the lawyers and judges and juries—has a different idea surrounding the details of the case, and sometimes those ideas are incorrect or clouded by a range of emotions tied to the crime and verdict. Through its work, the Innocence Project tries to correct misconceptions and offer a sense of hope, when possible, by getting down to the truth in each client’s case. Through science and the law, the Innocence Project makes the criminal justice system accountable for its mistakes. Ultimately, the organization proves its clients’ freedom and demonstrates to its clients, and society, that the criminal justice system does indeed have the capacity to deliver justice with the right reforms in place.

I want to be a lawyer. From the first mock trial course I ever took, I knew that’s what I wanted to be. Then I took an economics course and decided I wanted to practice corporate law because it’s concrete, straight-forward, sensible. Whenever anyone asked me about criminal law, I said it was too messy, too chaotic and never consistent. I feared the inconsistency, but now, six weeks after working at the Innocence Project, I embrace the inconsistency. No case is ever the same. No client is ever the same. No experience is ever the same. I still agree that criminal law is a difficult field to be in, but I am no longer turning my back on it as an option.

The Innocence Project has done a lot to improve our criminal justice system, but the people here have taught me that there is always more to be done. As I look beyond the scope of innocence and into the broader arena of criminal justice, I think the next step needs to be to improve prison conditions, because, in my opinion, prison should not be a permanent holding cell. Prison needs to be the rehabilitation center it was put in place to be. I am looking forward to helping bring about that change.

I came into this internship bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to learn. I leave a little tired, but well informed and driven to make a change. This wasn’t a normal internship. This isn’t a normal law firm. This is a group of some of the most spectacular people I have ever met working together to better the United States as a whole. I could not have picked a better internship to end my senior year with. I want to thank everyone at the Innocence Project for the support and guidance that they have given me and I hope to come back later on in my life.

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