Law school’s Conviction Integrity Clinic assists in case resulting in new trial

Cassandra DeMarco

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law’s Conviction Integrity Clinic (CIC) recently assisted in vacating a man’s life sentence. The CIC is a partnership between Detroit Mercy Law, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The Clinic is directed by Valerie Newman, director of the Wayne County CIU, and Beth Greenberg Morrow, director of the Oakland County CIU.

Dorreon McBride applied to the Wayne County CIU in 2020 for relief of his 2016 conviction. McBride was tried twice, with the first jury being unable to decide on a verdict. In his second trial, a jailhouse informant testified that McBride had confessed to the murder. The jailhouse informant later recanted his testimony and indicated that he had lied with the hopes of receiving a reduced sentence.

“The Conviction Integrity Clinic provides a unique opportunity for students to work on cases with an innocence claim from within the prosecutor’s office,” explained Newman. “Conviction integrity units are a relatively new and still rare unit within prosecutors’ offices. In Michigan, we are fortunate to have five units throughout the state.”

While a CIC student, Cassandra DeMarco began working on the case and became so invested in pursuing justice for McBride that she signed on for an additional directed study after her semester in the CIC ended to continue her work.

“As a student in the clinic, I was mainly reviewing files which included police reports, witness statements, and trial transcripts,” explained DeMarco. “After reviewing all important documents, we were tasked with writing a recommendation. I wrote the final recommendation that was presented to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.”

“Because of Cassandra and the CIU’s team work on this case new information was uncovered that undermined the integrity of the verdict. A Wayne County judge agreed and vacated Mr. McBride’s convictions and sentences,” said Newman.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Margaret M. Van Houten signed the order vacating McBride’s life sentence for first degree murder and granting him a new trial.

“I never expected to have so much involvement in a case, but Director Newman wants her students to get a true view of what it is like to work on a case,” said DeMarco. “The Conviction Integrity Clinic allowed me the opportunity to hold the justice system accountable. It gave me real life experience, working with real clients, and investigating real cases.”

“This is life changing work and to have the ability to participate in it as a student is a learning experience like no other,” said Newman.

“Cassandra’s work on this case, and the experience she gained while working with Professor Newman, exemplifies what we mean by ‘educating the complete lawyer,’” said Detroit Mercy Law Interim Dean Nicholas Schroeck. “Clinic students, like Cassandra, provide an invaluable service to our community, while honing the skills that will serve them well as attorneys and advocates working for justice.”

To learn more about Detroit Mercy Law’s clinics, visit

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