Record-Breaking Gift to Benefit the Ohio Innocence Project at UC’s College of Law

Richard Rosenthal’s $15M Gift is the Largest for the College and Any Innocence Program

CINCINNATI - September 13, 2016 – A $15 million gift from long-time Cincinnati benefactor Richard “Dick” Rosenthal to the University of Cincinnati College of Law will help free countless wrongfully convicted individuals. The Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at UC’s Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the College of Law will use the generous gift – the largest ever for the college and any innocence program – to provide for the program in perpetuity.

“The Ohio Innocence Project has a laudable mission: to free every innocent person in Ohio. I’m proud to help ensure its life-saving work continues now and forever,” Rosenthal said. “Thank you to everyone who has helped make the OIP so successful in its mission – I’m inspired daily by the students, faculty and staff who work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice.”

“The University of Cincinnati is proud to be home to the world-class Ohio Innocence Project, where students work side-by-side with professionals to help free the innocent. Donors like Dick Rosenthal make this life-changing work possible, and we can’t thank him enough,” said UC Interim President Beverly J. Davenport.

Rosenthal’s investment will boost recruitment of top students and faculty, both nationally and internationally, and support vital programming at the OIP. In recognition of the monumental gift, the law school will add three Lois and Richard Rosenthal Clinical Professors of Law. Students will be identified as Rosenthal Student Fellows. Finally, the OIP will occupy custom-designed, named space in the new building with upgraded work spaces, offices and technology.

“The University of Cincinnati College of Law is deeply grateful to Mr. Rosenthal for his longstanding support of our faculty, staff and students who do such wonderful work addressing the injustice of wrongful convictions. This gift is the largest the law school has ever received,” said Jennifer S. Bard, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the UC College of Law. “The Ohio Innocence Project is an important component of our experiential, ‘learn by doing’ curriculum and by training the next generation of prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators, and judges is already advancing one of our nation’s core Constitutional protections: the right to a fair trial.”

Founded in 2003, the OIP is Ohio’s only law school-based innocence organization dedicated to freeing innocent people in prison and preventing wrongful convictions. To date, the program has freed 24 people who combined served nearly 450 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

“Student idealism and passion is the lifeblood of the OIP. The energy of our students gives us an advantage over other legal organizations, but it’s our generous donors who make their work possible,” said OIP Director Mark Godsey. “Thank you Dick Rosenthal for providing much more than financial support of the OIP. When John Cranley and I founded the organization, we were just a couple of young lawyers, but Lois and Dick knew how to build institutions. They had a vision, and helped teach John and me how to take our ideas and passion to the next level. From event planning, to public awareness, to fundraising, Lois and Dick taught us how to build a top-notch organization.”

“The Ohio Innocence Project has quickly become a national model for innocence organizations, and it has taken a leading role in expanding the movement internationally, assisting the startup of new programs across the globe,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder and director of the New York City-based Innocence Project. “Thank you to Dick Rosenthal for your incredible support of the innocent.”

Each year, about 20 students spend a full year working on cases, digging through files, interviewing witnesses, writing case briefs and applying their knowledge of forensic techniques like DNA testing. Through hands-on learning, they discover how to build a case and what can make a case go wrong, resulting in a tragic injustice.

“The incredible success of UC’s Ohio Innocence Project has been made possible through the vision and generosity of Dick Rosenthal,” said UC Foundation President Rodney Grabowski. “He has helped provide a life-changing service to our community and freed 24 individuals from wrongful imprisonment. We are forever grateful.”

In 2004, Dick and his late wife, Lois, gave $1 million to create and endow the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice. The primary component of the Institute is the OIP, which ultimately aims to free every innocent person in Ohio.

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About the University of Cincinnati College of Law

As the fourth oldest continuously operating law school in the country, UC’s College of Law has a rich history of educating and inspiring leaders who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. Its ranks include many distinguished alumni including a U.S. president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and six governors. The college cultivates an intimate learning experience with an 8.6:1 student to faculty ratio and offers a wealth of resources such as more than 40 student organizations, five journals and seven centers and institutes. For more information, please visit law.uc.edu.

About the University of Cincinnati Foundation

Established in 1975, the University of Cincinnati Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and is the private sector fundraising entity for the University of Cincinnati and UC Health. The foundation supports UC’s aspirations through philanthropic collaboration with the colleges, the Academic Health Center, UC Health and other units to maximize private support. The foundation’s advancement efforts promote the development of productive, enduring relationships with alumni, friends, colleagues, students, foundations, corporations and the Greater Cincinnati community. For more information, please visit uc.edu/foundation.

Richard Rosenthal with OIP exoneree Ricky JacksonRichard Rosenthal with OIP exoneree Ricky Jackson

UC’s OIP By the Numbers

24 people freed

450 years - approximate time served

About 20 law students participate in the program each year

More than 250 students have graduated from the program

Current staff:
Director - 1
Executive staff assistant - 1
Staff attorneys - 3
Legal research, writing specialist and outreach coordinator - 1
Fellows - 17

Ohio Innocence Project staffOhio Innocence Project staff and friends 

Left to right - Top row: Brian Howe (staff attorney), Mark Godsey (director), Jennifer Paschen Bergeron (staff attorney), Dean Gillispie (OIP exoneree), Brittany Johns, Donald Caster (staff attorney)
Bottom row: Jennifer Thompson, Liza Dietrich (research and writing specialist), Ruby Wilz, Rashida Manuel

Ohio Innocence Project work spaceStudents working on cases at the Ohio Innocence Project within the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the UC College of Law.

Ohio Innocence Project student case workerChris Diedling, 2015-16 OIP Fellow

By Caitlin Whitehurst
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UC Foundation

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