Student, alumna help overturn conviction with Project for the Innocent

Sophie Kupiec-Weglinski

“We won!” read an email from  Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson (Solly Mirell ’06, Havi Mirell ’08, Daniela Mirell ’17)  to Monica Nimmagadda ’14. Nimmagadda had just finished cross country practice and was stretching on the field with friends when she checked her email. She jumped up and gushed to her friends about what had just happened. “AHHHHHHH!!!!” she texted Yasmin Moreno ’13. She couldn’t believe what had happened — Kash Register’s conviction had been overturned.

After 34 years of imprisonment for a crime he did not commit, Register was freed Nov. 7. Nimmagadda and Moreno helped free the wrongly convicted man by working as interns for Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School.

“It was just really exciting that I was able to be a part of all this,” Nimmagadda said.

Register was imprisoned for murder after a witness gave a false testimony against him in 1979. He was freed after his conviction was overturned when the sister of a witness said that her sister had lied.

Nimmagadda and Moreno helped free Register by doing research on all the witnesses, such as looking at social media pages and seeing what types of people they are connected to. They also researched the original lawyer in the 1979 case and found that the lawyer had a history of malpractice.

Moreno and Nimmagadda also found and made copies of transcripts of the case.

Nimmagadda and Moreno joined Project for the Innocent, an organization dedicated to help free wrongly convicted individuals, last November. Nimmagadda became interested after finding out that Brooke Levin ’12 participated in the project.

Moreno, a freshman at  Harvard College, became interested while taking Criminal Law and Advocacy last year. Science teacher David Hinden, who teaches the course, told her about the project and helped her get in touch with Levenson, one of Register’s lawyers. Moreno and Nimmagadda were then brought onto the Register case, and reported their findings to Register’s other lawyer Adam Grant.

“It’s a great feeling for me to be able to participate in a little way by helping to recommend a student to work on the project,” Hinden said. “We’ve had a great and productive relationship with. Loyola Law School and its Project for the Innocent which does such amazing work.”

In addition to the Register case, Nimmagadda and Moreno worked on five other cases involving criminals professing their innocence.

“We read a lot of cases, and we sometimes discuss whether or not they would be possible to do,” Nimmagadda said, “None of them were as clear a case as Kash’s.”

Nimmagadda and Moreno went to Loyola Law School twice a week during the school year and three times a week during the summer for four to five hours to do research. Although Nimmagadda never personally met Register, she did see him during part of his evidentiary hearing from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7.

“I was at first really just happy that it all worked out, but then I was incredibly sad because this man lost his whole life — 34 years due to simply a bad trial,” Nimmagadda said.

Nimmagadda said she will continue to work for Project for the Innocent.

“Because of cross country and college applications, I haven’t been able to go in, but once November is over, I’ll go back,” Nimmagadda said. “Working at the project was one of the greatest experiences.”