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After Lacrosse Case, Duke to Establish Justice Center

Duke University announced it will fund a legal research center at its law school to promote justice and train lawyers to fight against wrongful convictions.

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DURHAM, N.C. — In the wake of the now-debunked rape case against three of its lacrosse players, Duke University will establish a center devoted to justice and training lawyers to fight wrongful convictions, president Richard Brodhead said Wednesday.

Duke will invest $1.25 million over the next five years for the project at the law school, which will also expand its Wrongful Convictions Clinic and its Innocence Project. That clinic and project investigate claims of innocence for people like Alan Gell and Darryl Hunt, two men acquitted of murder because the evidence later proved they didn't do it.

"The lacrosse case attracted a lot of publicity, but is not the only case in which innocent people have suffered harm through the state's legal system," said James Coleman, a Duke law professor who led a university committee that examined the team's behavior in the weeks following the 2006 accusations.

The university hopes the new legal center at its law school will help teach future prosecutors not to make the same mistakes and will help uncover other injustices across the state.

"What we want to do is improve the criminal justice system. It's an important system. It affects all of us, and it's more important for the system to get it right," Coleman said.

Coleman and Associate Dean Theresa Newman, both of whom teach at the clinic and serve as faculty advisers to the law school's student-led Innocence Project, are expected to be involved in the development of the new center.

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