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GIVING BACK

Angela Whicher, 2016 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award, interned at the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

I am a senior at UW-Madison and I will be graduating in May 2017 with degrees in Legal Studies and Psychology and a certificate in Criminal Justice. I am planning to attend law school after I graduate. My long-term goals involve becoming a criminal defense attorney and researching and addressing how racial disparities influence wrongful convictions and death penalty outcomes.

This summer I interned at the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which has been a dream of mine since I started attending UW-Madison. I am still extremely honored to have been chosen for this amazing internship opportunity and I have cherished every day I spend at the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Before I started my internship I didn’t think I was going to be trusted to work on cases, I thought I was going to work more behind the scenes. However, I was completely wrong on that! I was assigned four cases to work on, and in the first week my team and I went to visit one of my clients and get to know and interview him. The first few weeks we spent taking different classes, like interviewing, ethics, post-conviction procedures, communicating with limited English proficiency clients, shaken baby syndrome basics, and DNA basics. After that we were left to work on our cases and continue moving the cases along. I really appreciate this sense of independence and it allowed me to develop my own abilities because I was expected to do the exact same tasks as the law students.

Over the summer I have worked on my cases thoroughly by attending weekly meetings with our supervising attorneys, drafting correspondence to our clients, drafting legal documents like affidavits and motions, and researching different claims. I spent a lot of time reading through different case files and then using that information to create new documents that we can use in the progression of the case. Each and every day is different because the cases are constantly evolving and changing, which means that we have to be doing new tasks that haven’t been done before. Some of the tasks I have done include writing letters and making phone calls to our clients, writing affidavits, developing an investigation plan to talk to witnesses, calling experts to discuss their opinions on the case, and reading and summarizing police reports.

My internship at the Wisconsin Innocence Project reinforced how passionate I am about helping people in the criminal justice system. Even though I’ve only had 10 weeks here, I have felt like I’ve made a difference. I am now extremely sure that I want to attend law school to pursue becoming a criminal defense attorney. I can’t wait to enter the criminal justice field in the future!

I am honored to be a recipient of the Audrey J. Harris award. I want to say thank you to the family of Audrey J. Harris for the generous award to help ease the financial burden of interning during the summer. I have truly loved interning for the Wisconsin Innocence Project and their generosity helped make it a reality for me and allowed me to fully engage in the experience. This internship experience was absolutely invaluable to me and I hope to be able to give back in the future so other students can have similar experiences.