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Criminal Defense Clinic 2023 Highlights

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Sturm College of Law

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student attorneys with client

CDC students Kate Dolder (l) and Grace Ingebretsen (r) with their client after a full dismissal in Arapahoe County Court. This case was referred to the Criminal Defense Clinic by CDC grad Austin Michaels.

The work of the Criminal Defense Clinic (CDC) continues to highlight the extreme need for indigent defense in Colorado municipal courts. Student attorneys in the CDC are working on a wide range of cases including disturbing the peace, assault, battery, threat, harassment, menacing and domestic violence. With the 91-day speedy trial statute in municipal courts, student attorneys handle their cases from arraignment to resolution, managing everything from initial client interviews and investigation to motion writing, oral argument and trial.

Spring 2023 saw great success for CDC clients. Student attorneys Claire Johnson and Kristin Kelley secured a not guilty verdict for their client, who was charged with violating a domestic violence protection order. Student attorneys Luke Meidel and Haley Macha won a motion to exclude witnesses for the same client after it was determined City of Denver prosecutors made egregious discovery violations resulting in a full dismissal of the case. The resolution of this client’s two cases put an end to a five-year battle with her ex-wife, who used the criminal courts as weapon against her making it hard for her to secure employment, housing and obtaining custody of her three children. With the help of the Criminal Defense Clinic, this client’s criminal record is clean with no prior convictions.

student attorneys with client
CDC student attorneys (l-r) Luke Meidel, Kristin Kelley, Claire Johnson and Haley Macha celebrating the not guilty verdict with their client (center).

Spring 2023 CDC students also had two successful motion to suppress hearings where critical evidence was excluded from the case causing the city to dismiss the cases against their clients. The CDC also argued a successful motion for failure to preserve helping a non-citizen client avoid conviction on a charge that would have caused immigration consequences. The clinic also partnered with the law school’s Immigration Law and Policy Clinic and the University of Denver’s undergraduate language department to provide wholistic representation. 

student attorneys at Lakewood Municipal Courts
CDC students Luke Meidel, Claire Johnson and recent grad George Ford, JD’23, pictured after winning their preservation motion in front of a Lakewood Municipal Court judge.

Fall 2023 is off to a great start with CDC students convincing prosecutors to dismiss two assault cases after comprehensive investigation and fierce advocacy. The CDC has three cases set for trial in Aurora Municipal Court, a jurisdiction that the clinic has not recently practiced, but where there is great need for defense counsel. In October, clinic students Kate Dolder and Lillian Stone, tried a two-day careless driving and harassment case where they made an opening statement, cross examined the alleged victim, a third-party witness and a police officer and also argued effectively in closing.

student attorneys and professors outside Aurora courthouse
CDC Student Attorneys (l-r) Kate Dolder and Lillian Stone with professor Collen Cullen and Julie Cramer outside of the Aurora Municipal Courthouse after the first day of trial.

Finally, the CDC has partnered with the Spero Justice Center to represent a woman serving a life sentence without parole on her state clemency petition to Governor Polis. This will be the clinic’s second clemency petition as the Spring 2023 students filed an executive clemency with President Biden for a seventy-year-old man serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense from the 1990s. The clinic’s executive clemency petition is awaiting the president’s decision.