Anne Poulin Shares Passion for Innocence Project with VLS Students
For more than thirty years, Professor Anne Bowen Poulin has educated Villanova Law students on the complexities of criminal justice. Poulin’s dedication to her chosen field is apparent whether she is working in or out of the classroom. Through her work with organizations such as the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Prosecutorial Oversight Campaign, she helps to fight the injustices of a flawed system and inspires her students to follow in her footsteps.
Each year, Poulin supervises nearly 40 Villanova students who work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project as part of externship or pro bono programs. Poulin has been associated with the Project since its inception. The effort is dedicated to securing the exoneration, release from imprisonment, and restoration to society of persons who are innocent and have been wrongly convicted. The Pennsylvania Project is part of the nationwide Innocence Network, whose members led to the exoneration of over 250 people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project provides clinical training and experience to students in the fields of law, journalism, criminal justice and forensic science.
Currently, Poulin is working to bring a Prosecutorial Oversight public forum to Pennsylvania with Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and alumnus Thomas Innes ‘74, director of prison services for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Part of a nationwide initiative, the Prosecutorial Oversight Campaign seeks to explore policy reforms to prevent prosecutorial misconduct and error through dialogue on the issue.
“Anyone involved with criminal justice has to be concerned with the effectiveness of the system,” said Poulin. “Each year numerous prosecutors engage in misconduct, whether intentionally or negligently. Through discussion, the Prosecutorial Oversight campaign challenges the inadequate oversight of prosecutors and aims to address, correct, and deter misconduct.”
The effort was inspired by the United States Supreme Court decision in Connick v. Thompson. In the landmark case, John Thompson sued the New Orleans Parish District Attorney for violation of his civil rights after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 18 years, 14 of which were spent on death row, as a result of extreme prosecutorial misconduct. Represented by Villanova Law alumnus J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. ‘84, Thompson argued that the prosecutor’s office had an obligation adequately train its prosecutors on their duty to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense. The Supreme Court rejected Thompson’s argument, disappointing many who hoped that Thompson’s case would establish a legal theory for holding prosecutors accountable for misconduct.
Visit www.innocenceprojectpa.org and www.prosecutorialoversight.org to learn more about these programs.