OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law is pleased to announce the renaming of the Innocence Project to the “University of Mississippi School of Law George C. Cochran Innocence Project.” The new name honors legendary professor and constitutional law expert George Cochran, who retired May 9, 2015. To date, 330 innocent prisoners have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing – over a dozen of them in Mississippi.
“George Cochran is one of the best – and most memorable – professors I have ever known,” said Dean Debbie Bell.
“His intense classroom style and astonishing recollection of thousands of cases have impressed generations of UM law students. And the Innocence Project would not exist without his determination to make it happen. His dedication to the program has created a unique opportunity for law students to help right one of society’s most egregious wrongs – the imprisonment of innocent people.”
Professor Cochran’s contributions to the Innocence Project are many. He passed the resolution unanimously among faculty to establish the Innocence Project and then made sure that it was not an unfunded mandate. He worked to comprise a board and to gain substantial, permanent funding – and then was not only appointed to its Board of Directors, but is frequently consulted on ongoing litigation.
“When I heard about this new project and clinic, I called my friend on the faculty, Farish Percy, who referred me to someone named George Cochran,” said Tucker Carrington, director of the Project.
“I called him and spoke with him for just a few minutes. He told me he loved me and then hung up without saying goodbye. That seemed odd, but weighed against my need for a job, not too odd. So, seven years on, I now count George as a dear friend and colleague. I’m not sure he really loves me as much as he loves what the job I’m lucky enough to have — and that he was central to creating. He loves the law, loves litigating, loves the underdog, and lives for — absolutely lives for — those moments when lawyers step up and force those in positions of power to make good on fundamental promises of due process and equal protection.”
Cochran retired after serving as a faculty member for over 40 years, joining the faculty in 1972 after clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed and for Chief Justice Earl Warren. He taught Constitutional Law, Supreme Court Practice and Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure. Students have twice voted him as the school’s top professor. He has argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“While grateful for being honored, it is important that it be remembered that the invaluable assistance of John Grisham, Columbus attorney Wilbur Colom and former Justice of the Supreme Court Jimmy Robertson, as well as Innocence Project New Orleans director, Emily Maw, were critical when putting the Innocence Project in place,” Cochran said. “Under the leadership of Professor Tucker Carrington I am certain that the work done at the Law School will have a lasting and positive impact on justice as it is administered in the State.”
Established in 2007, the School of Law’s Innocence Project provides legal representation to Mississippi state prisoners who have meritorious claims of wrongful conviction. It is an in-house law firm at the University of Mississippi School of Law that provides clinical experience to third-year law students.
Additional details about how former alumni and friends of Professor Cochran may participate in this event, and express appreciation for all that he has done and continues to do for the Law School will be forthcoming during the academic year.