Category: Campus News

Derrick Harris exonerated after seven years in prison by California Western clinical program

By Anya Witmer

On October 6, 2020, Derrick Harris was exonerated in a joint effort between the California Innocence Project and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU).[1]

In 2013, Harris was arrested and convicted for an armed robbery, for which he served seven years in prison. The victim identified Harris in a lineup, which ultimately led to his conviction – faulty eyewitness identifications are a leading cause of wrongful convictions.[2] Despite the conviction, Harris persevered in his claim of innocence throughout his time behind bars.[3] While Harris was incarcerated, his co-defendant and a third-party admitted their involvement in the robbery and exculpated Harris. Harris’s co-defendant later signed a declaration that was crucial in Harris’s exoneration.[4]

In 2019, the California Innocence Project joined Harris’s fight for justice. In 2020, Michael Semanchik, managing attorney of the California Innocence Project, brought Harris’s case to the CRU and convinced them to investigate the case further. The CRU’s investigation resulted in their losing confidence in the conviction and a determination that Harris was factually innocent. Following the findings, the Los Angeles District Attorney and the California Innocence Project filed a joint stipulation reversing Harris’s conviction and finding him factually innocent of the robbery.[5]

Harris’s exoneration is the California Innocence Project’s thirty-fourth exoneration since its formation in 1999. The California Innocence Project is a clinical program at California Western School of Law, which is committed to obtaining justice for wrongfully convicted inmates, training law students, and changing the system to mitigate issues in wrongful convictions moving forward. For more information on the California Innocence Project, visit

Students interested in the project can find volunteer information at the California Innocence Project website or follow @ca_innocence on Instagram, and can also join the XONR8 Club (@xonr8cwsl), which is committed to supporting the California Innocence Project and providing students with educational opportunities.

California Innocence Project

“Freeing the innocent. Changing the system.”

[1] Michael Semanchik, 2020. [PRESS RELEASE] Derrick Harris, Wrongfully Convicted of Armed Robbery, Exonerated.


[3] See Note 1.

[4] See Note 1.

[5] See Note 1.

SBA Monthly Article – September 2020

Hi California Western,

For many law students across the country, 2020 has been anything but smooth. From the spread of COVID-19, to the ongoing fight for racial justice, and now the passing of our beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are living in challenging, uncertain times. The SBA recognizes these are trying times and is dedicated to improving your law school experience while navigating difficult circumstances. Here are a few updates. Continue reading “SBA Monthly Article – September 2020”

APALSA’s Taste of Asia

Mark Your Calendar, Barrister’s Ball is Around the Corner!

By Vincent Chiaverini

Pick out an outfit, grab a ticket, and snag a date for Barrister’s Ball! Barrister’s Ball is an annual, school-wide, formal gathering that CWSL puts on in style. With previous events at night clubs and yachts with open bars, this is an event no student should miss.

Continue reading “Mark Your Calendar, Barrister’s Ball is Around the Corner!”

First Time in a DECADE

By Professor A.W. Campbell

It’s been over a decade since my horse and I did what we did today.

Three years ago, out of frustration, I quit polo. I could no longer hit the ball straight. That resulted from three mallet-arm issues. First, my right shoulder was anchored to a healed-but-overlapped broken collar bone. Second, only tendons connected that arm to my shoulder-blade; the nerves had been severed by a near-fatal fall. Third, I’d ripped two right-arm tendons out of my skeleton.

Continue reading “First Time in a DECADE”

California’s Inmate Firefighters Explore the Challenges and Victories of being on the Front Lines of Inferno

By The Commentary and Ryan Stygar


As fires scorch across the state, Californians are once again reminded of the extreme threat posed by wildfire. News broadcasts show hundreds of firefighters working day and night to contain the blaze. While most firefighters wear yellow jackets to protect themselves from heat and embers, a substantial group wears bright orange jackets. 

Why? They are California’s front line.

California’s Inmate Firefighters

On September 28, 2019, Cal Western students heard first-hand accounts of the inmate firefighter experience! Two veterans of the inmate firefighter program, Brooke Carrasco and Brandon Smith, shared their stories as the keynote panelists. Among the many topics covered was the controversy around the program. Prisoner rights advocates have raised questions about placing inmates in harms way, especially since inmate firefighters earn only $2.00 per day, plus $1.00 per hour while fighting fire.

Continue reading “California’s Inmate Firefighters Explore the Challenges and Victories of being on the Front Lines of Inferno”

Gill Trial Competition

By Claudia Salinas
DAs Gill 2019
On Saturday, October 19, 2019, the Moot Court Honors Board hosted the annual David M. Gill trial competition that is open to all 2Ls and 3Ls. Students were given a fact pattern a week in advance and prepared either an opening or closing statement to deliver to a panel of judges. 
The first photo includes the seven finalist who not only moved into the final round but also received Distinguished Advocate awards! From left to right: Danica Hernandez, Jessica Taylor, Brian Jeong, Ryan Stygar,  Nicolas Ahadzadeh, Gentre Martinez, and Loriann Ayon. 

Continue reading “Gill Trial Competition”