A $15 million gift from Richard “Dick” Rosenthal to the University of Cincinnati College of Law could help free countless wrongfully convicted individuals. The Ohio Innocence Project at UC’s Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice at the school will use the 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.”
Reaction to the donation came from UC’s interim president Beverly J. Davenport. “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.”
Rosenthal’s investment will boost recruitment of top students and faculty, both nationally and internationally, and support vital programming at the Innocence Project. In recognition of the 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 Innocence Project will occupy a custom-designed, named space in its future new building with upgraded work spaces, offices and technology.
Jennifer S. Bard, dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the UC College of Law, described the project as “an important component of our experiential, ‘learn by doing’ curriculum.”
“By training the next generation of prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators, and judges (it) is already advancing one of our nation’s core constitutional protections: the right to a fair trial,” she said.
Founded in 2003, the Ohio Innocence Project is the state’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.
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 Innocence Project is the primary component of the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice, endowed in 2004 with a $1 million gift from Rosenthal and his late wife, Lois.
In addition to his support for equal justice, Rosenthal is a champion of the arts. As founder of Uptown Arts, he brought the gifts of art, music and dance to inner-city children. As a lover and patron of the arts, he has served on the boards of ArtsWave, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Opera Association, the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts and the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
In August, the Association of Fundraising Professionals named Rosenthal as its 2016 Philanthropist of the Year. He will be honored at the National Philanthropy Day luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Duke Energy Convention Center.