March 6, 2023 // National
Attorney Helps Raise Awareness for Wrongfully Convicted in Hoosier State
On Sunday, Jan. 22, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Pastorate held a Rosary for Life, followed by a presentation given by Kevin Murphy, a staff attorney for the Notre Dame Exoneration Justice Clinic in South Bend. Murphy shed light on the issue of wrongful convictions in America, and within the Hoosier State.
Before Murphy joined the Exoneration Justice Clinic in June of 2021, he was working as a litigation associate at Jenner & Block in Chicago. During this time, he was active in pro bono practice and focused on representing those wrongfully convicted, individuals on death row, and criminal defendants.
Outside of his work, he is an active member of his church, husband, and father. Murphy grew up attending Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which he described as a wonderful foundation to his growing faith life.
“Our Lady of Mount Carmel always felt like a spiritual home base for me, and that was largely due to Father Richard Doerr, Missionary Pastor of the Pastorate,” he said.
During Murphy’s high school years, Father Doerr would often times go over to the Murphy household for dinners. It was there that Murphy said Father Doerr became a spiritual mentor, advisor, and friend.
“He has been there for me through all of the ups and downs of my life. Even though he leads a parish of thousands of families, he treats each person he encounters as if he or she were the one that matters the most to him,” Murphy said.
While Murphy was fortunate to have Father Doerr’s guidance, he also recognizes the work that his parents, Pete and Elaine, did to instill in him what it meant to be a Catholic.
“They taught me that being a Catholic is not about just going to church or praying — it is about living the Gospel every day and, in particular, serving those around us in need,” he said. “My parents are my biggest role models because they live to serve others — their families, their friends, and their community every day.”
After high school, Murphy went on to attend and graduate law school from Notre Dame, summa cum laude, in 2014.
During his time in college, he met the love of his life, Alisa. The two quickly became friends but didn’t start dating until several years later when they were reunited in Chicago, working for the same law firm. Murphy noted that his work wouldn’t be possible without her love and support.
“Marrying Alisa was the best decision I have made in my life,” he said. “She is my north star; always keeping me focused on what matters most in life and drives me to be a better, more compassionate, more selfless person.”
Alisa is also a lawyer who now works in the General Counsel’s Office at Notre Dame. Together, the two have a beautiful and energetic one-year-old daughter, Evelyn Rose Murphy that they just, “love to pieces.”
The Catholic Moment recently had the opportunity to speak with Murphy about the details of his presentation, what inspired him to begin working at Notre Dame and with those wrongfully convicted.
Here, he answers questions about his work, his faith, and about how you may be able to help make a difference to those who are experiencing wrongful convictions.
What inspired you to become an attorney, more specifically, what inspired you to work with the Exoneration Clinic at Notre Dame?
Murphy: “I wanted to become an attorney because I wanted to be a voice for those in need. I did not have in mind, at the time, what type of law that I would practice, but I felt that I was being called to pursue this path and that, sometime down the road, the best use of these skills would be revealed to me.
When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to do criminal defense work for the first time through an externship at Notre Dame Law School. We got my first client ever out of jail on Christmas Eve, and he called me in tears of gratitude. At that point, I think I knew that this sort of work was what I loved and was a vehicle through which I could serve others.
I went to the law firm Jenner & Block in Chicago after law school because I knew that Jenner placed a huge emphasis on pro bono work.
At Jenner, I was given extraordinary opportunities to work on wrongful conviction and criminal defense cases even as a young lawyer. I worked on a post-conviction case where we got our client off of death row in Texas. Then, I worked on another case where we freed an innocent man from prison in Illinois after 23 years of wrongful conviction.
Working for these extraordinary clients solidified for me that doing wrongful conviction and criminal defense work was the best way I could use my talents to serve others.
When a job opportunity at the Notre Dame Exoneration Justice Clinic opened up, I was elated. My wife and I love Notre Dame with all our hearts, and the idea of coming back here to work with the finest students in the country on wrongful conviction cases was nothing short of a dream.”
How does your work go hand-in-hand with your faith? In what ways do you feel your work helps raise awareness in the pro-life movement?
Murphy: “My faith informs and drives all of the work that I do at the Notre Dame Exoneration Justice Clinic. As Catholics, we believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God and with an inviolable human dignity. This belief is at the heart of the pro-life movement.
That inalienable dignity is violated when an innocent person is deprived of their life or liberty for a crime they did not commit. Catholic teaching is clear that, when such violations happen, they damage not only the individual, but our society as a whole. That is why we, as Catholics, should be particularly outraged by wrongful convictions, and particularly vigilant to see that wrongful convictions are prevented and corrected.”
Tell me more about the talk you gave at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. What is something you hope people can take away from your presentation?
Murphy: “At Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I had the opportunity to pray the rosary with and speak to a wonderful group of parishioners about the problem of wrongful convictions. We discussed the problem through the lens of two innocent Hoosiers who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
We discussed why Catholics, in particular, should stand against wrongful convictions, the scope of the problem of wrongful convictions, the principal causes of wrongful convictions, and how members of the public can help prevent and correct wrongful convictions.
My hope is that the parishioners were left with a clear sense of two things. First, there is a serious wrongful conviction problem in this country, including here in Indiana. And second, there are many things that they — as Catholics and citizens — can do to help fix the problem, including educating themselves about the problem, advocating for commonsense reforms, supporting the creation of conviction integrity units, urging elected officials to take action in cases where innocent people are in prison, and of course, praying for the wrongfully convicted, their families, officials who can impact their fate, and victims of all crime.”
The Catholic Moment is the newspaper of the Diocese of Lafayette-In-Indiana.
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