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OIP Internship Develops Criminal Defense Passion


Maxel Moreland was an Ohio Innocence Project fellow during the last academic year. During summer 2016, Moreland worked as a legal intern for the felony division, Office of the Hamilton County Public Defender, where he helped attorney and UC Law alum John Kennedy work on the case involving Joshua Maxton, an indigent client acquitted of murder. Moreland was one of five UC third-year law students selected to intern for the full year at the Indigent Defense Clinic through the Hamilton County PD office during the 2016/2017 academic year. Moreland also served as the inaugural president of UC Law’s National Association for Public Defense chapter, the first student chapter in the country.

By Maxel Moreland

Maxel MorelandHearing that Joshua Maxton was acquitted of all of his charges last year was elating! The entire Public Defender’s office was buzzing with excitement.

Last year, I assisted John Kennedy by looking through phone records and by attempting to track down a witness. I had previously reviewed phone records on a case for OIP, so it was great to use the skills I had already learned to work on an ongoing murder trial.

The phone records we received from the police ended up not matching those from the phone company. The inconsistency was addressed at trial and may have played a part in creating reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. Unfortunately, I could not track down the witness.

I started interning with the Hamilton County PD Felony Division during the summer. Mainly, I assisted felony attorneys with their cases, observed court, and argued bond hearings. As a fellow with the Indigent Defense Clinic (IDC), I was allowed to serve as a public defender with a truncated caseload. I handled cases from the moment they make it to the PD office until the end of trial or when the client takes a plea.

The Ohio Innocence Project provided me with the skills to conduct better interviews with clients and witnesses. It also taught me to think outside the box when it comes to constructing a defense for my clients.

My Ohio Innocence Project experience was life-changing and truly opened my eyes to the injustices served by our justice system. Pouring over these old cases and attempting to find new evidence of innocence is hard, but rewarding, work.

I think that I most enjoyed the investigatory aspect of the Ohio Innocence Project. It was always an adventure to seek out witnesses, especially adverse witnesses. The experience made me a more compassionate person and greatly strengthened my interviewing and interpersonal skills.

After working with the Ohio Innocence Project, it was refreshing to see a case conclude and receive that instant gratification. While the Ohio Innocence Project is a rewarding experience, it can be taxing to work on cases and know that they will not be resolved anytime soon. The work I do now with the IDC is incredibly fulfilling as I get to help clients at one of the hardest points of their lives while getting the instant gratification of completing a case.

The experiences that I have had with the Ohio Innocence Project and at the Hamilton County PD greatly influenced me and accelerated my passion for criminal defense work!