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The Criminal Justice Project pursues litigation, legislation, education, and policy reform to improve the accuracy of the criminal justice system
...and its fairness to poor people.

The Criminal Justice Project

The CJP pursues litigation, legislation, education and policy reform to improve the accuracy of the criminal justice system and its fairness to poor people. CJP’s litigation efforts include participation in founding and development of the New England Innocence Project (NEIP) , investigation of cases of wrongfully convicted persons to secure their exoneration and filing amicus briefs to ensure reliable expert testimony, improve identification procedures and require better forensic science. CJP’s specific litigation issues to increase accuracy in the criminal justice system are electronic recording of interrogations, latent fingerprint analysis, eyewitness identification procedures, and expert testimony by law enforcement about drug distribution.

Professor Siegel with students.

Professor David Siegel directs the CJP, and his work through the CJP includes handling pro bono criminal cases with student assistance, crafting legislation to improve the accuracy of the criminal justice system, and training criminal justice professionals in these areas. CJP works to ensure the criminal system’s fairness to poor people through education and training of lawyers who conduct indigent defense, including Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, Inc., where Siegel is a member of the board of trustees, research on issues concerning vulnerable populations, including mentally ill defendants and juveniles, and efforts to maintain practitioner ethics.

Accuracy in Criminal Justice

Electronic recording of police interrogations – improve the quality of information at trial, enhance enforcement of suspects’ rights and increase professionalism of interviews


State of Rhode Island v. Tracy Barros (Amicus brief for New England Innocence Project describing Massachusetts’ positive experience under mandatory jury instruction cautioning jurors about risk of unrecorded statements)


Commonwealth v. Valerio DiGiambattista (Amicus brief for New England Innocence Project and Suffolk Lawyers for Justice supporting mandatory electronic recording of custodial interrogation under court’s supervisory authority)

Improve expert testimony in forensic science – ensure full information to fact finders, scientifically assess validity of experts’ methods, demand genuine bases for expert conclusions


Commonwealth v. Brandon Watson (Amicus brief for New England Innocence Project supporting cautionary jury instruction when police disregard best practices in eyewitness identification procedure and admission of expert testimony concerning counterintuitive nature of identification processes)


State of Connecticut v. J’Veil Outing (Amicus brief for New England Innocence Project supporting admission of expert testimony concerning counterintuitive nature of identification processes and arguing inherent suggestiveness of non-blind identification procedure)

Commonwealth v. Paul Gomes, Commonwealth v. Christopher Little (Amicus brief for Suffolk Lawyers for Justice challenging reliability of testimony by law enforcement experts concerning illicit drug distribution and police testimony by percipient witnesses that confuses lay and expert opinion)


Commonwealth v. Terry L. Patterson (Amicus brief for Independent Scholars and Scientists challenging absence of scientific demonstration of validity or reliability of ACE-V method and “simultaneous impressions” technique of latent fingerprint analysis)

Fairness to Poor Persons

Reform access to criminal offender records to minimize interference with access to employment and housing


CORI Initiative 2013 Report (Description and empirical analysis of project to implement CORI reform by preparing administrative and discretionary sealing petitions for CORI notations, finding significant burdens to individuals completing entire sealing process pro se.)


Public comments on Criminal Justice Information System Regulations, 803 CMR 2-11 (Student- drafted comments on retention periods for CORI record requesters, data security, access to iCORI for self-audits and composition of the Criminal Records Review Board)

Oppose expansion of unrestricted police authority to stop or search – prevent disproportionate police intrusion against indigent persons or minority communities, ensure law enforcement accountability and provide judicial supervision 


Commonwealth v. Porter P. (Amicus brief for Suffolk Lawyers for Justice arguing Article 14 of Massachusetts Declaration of Rights is inconsistent with doctrine of apparent authority that allows warrantless searches by police  who mistakenly think a third party can consent)

Commonwealth v. Oscar Lyles (Amicus brief for Suffolk Lawyers for Justice arguing suspicionless stops become seizures when police take civilian’s identification notwithstanding the Boston Police Department’s field interrogation observation policy)


Commonwealth v. Joel Rodriguez (Amicus brief for Suffolk Lawyers for Justice arguing Article 14 of Massachusetts Declaration of Rights is inconsistent with surreptitious unauthorized electronic interception of face-to-face conversations in private homes)


Arkansas v. Kenneth Sullivan (Pro bono petition in opposition to certiorari challenging pretextual vehicle stops)

Protect the rights of those accused in cases of racially charged violence


Commonwealth v. Tyson Benoit (Amicus brief for Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Suffolk Lawyers for Justice advocating full information to jurors considering cases of racially charged violence)

Ensure quality indigent defense and maintain practitioner ethics


Commonwealth v. Kempess Sylvain (Amicus brief arguing that Padilla v. Kentucky, holding failure to advise non-citizen criminal defendant of potential immigration consequences from conviction is ineffective assistance, should be applied retroactively to ensure effective assistance of counsel under Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.)


Napoleon Momon v. State of Tennessee (Tennessee Supreme Court decision on amicus curiae petition of Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to rehear motion opposing judicial interference with attorney-client relationship and proposing procedure to enforce ethical obligations when defendant chooses not to testify)

Compensate the Wrongfully Convicted


  • Commonwealth v. Humberto Guzman and Shawn Drumgold v. Commonwealth (Amicus brief for New England Innocence Project arguing that whether claimant for compensation due to alleged wrongful conviction under General Laws Chapter 258D obtained relief "on grounds which tend to establish innocence" is frequently, but not invariably, a matter of law, and that relief based upon evidence that is equivocal with respect to innocence, which rebuts government's evidence but does not wholly exonerate a defendant, presents question of fact).
  • Related CJP work