January 10, 2024

Serene Mistkawi

Oregon Innocence Project
Portland, Oregon

This summer, I worked at the Oregon Innocence Project (OIP) as a legal intern. OIP is a project of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (OJRC). The mission of OJRC is to end mass incarceration. I handled reviewing inquiries for assistance coming from folks who believe they were wrongfully convicted, strategized for upcoming litigation with my managing attorneys, and researched unique legal issues related to post-conviction relief, a unique type of civil litigation that requires extensive knowledge of the criminal trial system.

It is no secret that our criminal punishment system is deeply flawed. The knowledge that wrongful convictions are an all-too-common occurrence was a large factor in my decision to become a lawyer. I was especially excited to be offered a position with an organization that is dedicated to rectifying that wrong. Through my work at OIP, I have learned the common issues that can occur throughout a defendant’s trial and direct appeal process that can lead to wrongful convictions. This knowledge is incredibly important, as I plan to work in public defense following my completion of law school, and it is crucial that I know what to do to ensure my clients are not wrongfully convicted.

Because my work was unpaid, receiving the PILP stipend was key in allowing me to devote myself wholeheartedly to this crucially important work. I am endlessly grateful that I was able to work at OIP full time without having to provide for myself otherwise. Thank you to all those whose donations made this incredibly fulfilling experience possible!