UC alumna reflects on fellowship

Former Ohio Innocence Project fellow continues fight for unjustly imprisoned

UC alum Mallorie Thomas seeks to get people out of prison who should not be there.

She admits it’s a big goal, but it’s one she has pursued ever since her donor-funded fellowship at the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati.

To date, the OIP has helped free 33 wrongfully convicted Ohioans, who collectively served over 650 years behind bars.

“I’m not sure I would be where I am now but not for the OIP and my fellowship there,” the UC College of Law grad says. “I learned tips and tricks that benefit me today — like getting public records from a police department.”

A life-changing education

woman with brown hair, green shirt

Mallorie Thomas

Shortly after enrolling in UC's College of Law, Thomas joined the OIP as a Rosenthal Student Fellow, named for the nonprofit’s most transformational donors, Richard and Lois Rosenthal. The Rosenthals have supported the OIP from its founding, enabling it to become one of the world’s most successful innocence organizations.

“A lot of people have been able to walk out of prison because of Dick Rosenthal,” Thomas says. “It’s truly amazing what the Rosenthals have accomplished. They identified a need, and stepped in and stepped up.”

Rosenthal Student Fellows receive a stipend to offset living expenses and gain hands-on experience working with inmates claiming wrongful convictions. Fellows investigate cases through record requests, witness interviews and document reviews. They also assist staff attorneys with drafting motions and briefs.

“When I first started working with the OIP, I was shocked by the injustices I saw,” Thomas says. “A fire ignited within me.”

A lot of people have been able to walk out of prison because of Dick Rosenthal. It’s truly amazing what the Rosenthals have accomplished. They identified a need, and stepped in and stepped up.

Mallorie Thomas, JD '17

One of her first cases as a fellow was that of Evin King, who was convicted in 1995 of murdering his girlfriend despite no direct eyewitness or forensic evidence of guilt. After 23 years of incarceration, the court finally agreed to a hearing on DNA evidence that ultimately pointed to another unidentified male. King was released two weeks shy of his 60th birthday.

When Thomas passed the bar in 2017, she joined the OIP as a Rosenthal Fellow, a two-year post-graduate fellowship, and quickly took on one of the most meaningful cases of her career.

Thomas and another OIP lawyer, Donald Caster, began representing Charles Jackson, who had gone to prison before Thomas was even born. In November 2018, after serving 27 years for crimes he didn't commit, Jackson walked free.

“To this day I feel a special connection with Charles,” Thomas says. “In fact, we spoke just the other day.”

Today, Thomas is a post-conviction litigator with Patituce & Associates, a Cleveland-based criminal defense firm and one of only a few firms in the state specializing in wrongful conviction cases.

“It’s where I’m meant to be,” Thomas says.

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