WMU Cooley Associate Dean Tracey Brame to lead Innocence Project

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Tracey Brame Courtesy WMU Cooley Law School

WMU Cooley Law School Associate Dean and professor Tracey Brame was named the director of the school’s Innocence Project.

WMU Cooley professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon turned leadership of the project over to Brame on Friday. Mitchell-Cichon had been the director of the Innocence Project since 2012 but has been working with the program since 2002. She will continue to work with the project on a part-time basis, serving as legal counsel.

The WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project, which is a part of the Innocence Network, provides legal assistance to individuals who are imprisoned for crimes they did not commit by working to obtain post-conviction DNA testing of material evidence and unreliable forensics.

“Since the beginning of my law career, advocacy work has been my passion,” Brame said. “It’s an honor to assume the role of director for the WMU Cooley Innocence Project from professor Mitchell-Cichon, who has spent much of her legal career fighting for the wrongly accused.”

WMU Cooley Innocence Project’s clinic has screened more than 5,800 cases since 2001 and is responsible for the exoneration of Kenneth Wyniemko (2003), Nathaniel Hatchett (2008), Donya Davis (2014) and LeDura Watkins (2017). Additionally, the project assisted in the exoneration of Ramon Ward and Lacino Hamilton through a grant partnership with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit.

The Innocence Network has been credited with the release of more than 375 wrongfully accused prisoners through the use of DNA testing.

Marla Mitchell-Cichon Courtesy WMU Cooley Law School

As a professor, Mitchell-Cichon taught Professional Responsibility and the Wrongful Conviction Seminar. In 2006, Mitchell-Cichon received the Justice for All Award from the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. In 2019, she received the Leo Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award from the Ingham County Bar Association, the Champion of Justice award from the State Bar of Michigan and was named one of Michigan’s Leaders in the Law.

“Professor Brame will bring experience, expertise and enthusiasm to the work of the project,” Mitchell-Cichon said. “I am proud to have been part of six exonerations. I am especially proud of the positive working relationships we have established with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit. Michigan is leading the nation in how it reviews and rectifies wrongful convictions, and it has been an honor to be part of that.”

Brame was named the 2020 Lawyer of the Year by Michigan’s Lawyer’s Weekly. She is the director of the law school’s Access to Justice Clinic, which provides legal representation to those seeking to expunge their criminal convictions. Brame also is the immediate past president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association.

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