Lauryn Barbosa Findley

  • Hosted by Northern California Innocence Project
  • Sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP
  • Service location Santa Clara, California
  • Law school Santa Clara University School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Criminal Records Relief
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Lauryn works to create a systematic approach to mass exonerating people wrongly convicted based on the unreliable medico-legal diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), along with a paradigm shift in the medical and legal communities based on the lack of evidence for the diagnosis.

Science has revealed the lack of evidence for SBS and shown the diagnosis is unreliable. Medical advances have shown there are many other causes of the findings upon which the diagnosis is based, and courts across the country have begun to reverse SBS convictions. Despite this, thousands of indigent people remain in prison without access to the legal resources necessary to challenge their wrongful convictions. While wrongful convictions in general disproportionately impact people of color, convictions based upon false SBS diagnoses are further subject to explicit and implicit biases as race and poverty are considered risk factors for abuse.

Lauryn grew up in a family that was impacted by the criminal justice system and is committed to providing a voice for those incarcerated. When she learned that SBS might be the largest cause of wrongful conviction, she became passionate about assisting those who have suffered an unimaginable double-tragedy: they lost a child. They then were wrongfully blamed for that loss and sent to prison as a result.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of her fellowship, Lauryn has:

  • Identified 105 cases that are potential wrongful SBS convictions using a systemic and strategic approach
  • Connected with 60 people – 54 incarcerated, six no longer incarcerated – who would like their conviction reviewed with an emphasis on the presumption of innocence and in light of the changes in medical science. Lauryn has also obtained and reviewed trial transcripts for 26 of these people
  • Begun the process of preparing thirteen cases for negotiations and litigation in collaboration with her colleagues. Lauryn has written full habeas petitions for three of these clients and is currently negotiating with experts and DA offices to solicit buy-in on seeking reversal and innocence
  • Crafted a model template for challenging SBS science in post-conviction litigation for shortfall cases
  • Taught a forensic science class at Santa Clara School of Law alongside her supervising attorney

Next Steps

In the next six months, Lauryn plans to:

  • Continue to draft petitions to the court in cases where the sole evidence of guilt was medical testimony that has now been proven false
  • Continue to consult with medical experts, meet with DA offices, and file petitions in court when necessary
  • Continue to craft templates and sample motions for various arguments against the unreliable medical science that may be used pre-or post-conviction

Media

Lauryn Bruton-Barbosa JD ’20 awarded a prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship to work with the Northern California Innocence Project

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