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The Santa Clara University School of Law has launched a Northern California Innocence Project to give law students a crack at real-world casework — and give convicts who may have been wrongfully sentenced a second chance. “People say, ‘Well, why California? We don’t have the problems of the deep, dark south,’ ” said project director Kathleen Ridolfi. “ Well, I say we have the same problems of false confessions and reliance on jailhouse snitches that are entrenched in all states.” To date, DNA tests have helped free 82 inmates nationwide, according to the law school, and most of those have happened with the help of similar innocence projects. Since the project opened in early January, the 13 law students involved have been inundated with more than 100 requests for investigation. “It’s just so basically repugnant to think that someone who’s actually innocent is serving time,” said Marcia Raymond, a third-year student working at the project. “It’s just natural to want to do something about it.” The California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law in San Diego makes case referrals to its counterpart in Santa Clara, and vice versa. Although she has secured approximately $15,000 in seed funding, Ridolfi said Santa Clara’s project may be short-lived if more support doesn’t come her way soon.

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