The 2023 Edward Ross Lecture in Litigation We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes: Race, Wrongful Conviction and Justice in America
with Christina Swarns
March 14, 2023
12:00 PM– 1:00 PM
Duane Morris LLP Moot Court Room
About The Event
Temple University Beasley School of Law invites you to the 2023 Edward Ross Lecture in Litigation, featuring remarks by Christina Swarns, Executive Director of the Innocence Project, titled We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes: Race, Wrongful Conviction and Justice in America.
about Christina Swarns
Executive Director, Innocence Project
Christina Swarns is the Executive Director of the Innocence Project, a position she has held since 2020. Swarns has dedicated her entire professional career to criminal justice reform. She served as the president and attorney-in-charge of the Office of the Appellate Defender, Inc., one of New York City’s oldest institutional providers of indigent appellate defense representation. Before that, Swarns spent more than a decade at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where she served as LDF’s litigation director and criminal justice project director.
Throughout her career, Swarns has successfully represented several high-profile clients in consequential cases. She argued, and won, Buck v. Davis – a challenge to the introduction of explicitly racially biased evidence in a Texas death penalty case – in the United States Supreme Court. In a February 2017 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 6-2 majority, vacated Duane Buck’s death sentence and denounced the “noxious strain of racial prejudice” that infected the case after an expert witness testified that Mr. Buck was more likely to commit criminal acts of violence in the future because he is Black. Swarns was the only Black woman to argue in that Supreme Court term and is one of the few Black women ever to have argued before the nation’s highest court.
Prior to joining LDF, Swarns served as a supervising assistant federal defender and assistant federal defender at the Capital Habeas Unit of Philadelphia’s Federal Community Defender Office. While there, Christina represented numerous individuals with death-sentences whose convictions and/or death-sentences were reversed, including Nicholas Yarris, the first man sentenced to death in Pennsylvania and later to be exonerated by DNA evidence. Swarns began her legal career as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Division in New York.
A passionate legal advocate, Swarns speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law and criminal justice. She is frequently interviewed by major media outlets; she has authored op-eds, including, “Dylann Roof Shouldn’t Get the Death Penalty”; and she is the subject of several high-profile interviews, including by Academy Award-winning film maker, Errol Morris (Who is Dangerous, and Who Dies?), the ABA Journal (Lady of the Last Chance: Lawyer Makes Her Mark Getting Convicts Off Death Row) and the Washington Post (Defense Lawyer Fights Racism in Death Row Cases).