Criminal Law

Detroit Mercy Law has many course offerings for students interested in criminal law and has many criminal law experts on the faculty. Our courses cover all areas of criminal law and you will have opportunities to gain hands-on experience in criminal law.

“It is a dream of mine to become a criminal trial lawyer. Seeing the rules of evidence be utilized in the courtroom brought a certain level of clarity to the subject that I was unable to grasp from just reading about it in a textbook.”



Valmik Kelwala '23, Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office Extern


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    Professor J. Richard Broughton

    J. Richard Broughton, Associate Dean, Faculty Research and Development and Professor of Law, is an expert in American politics and institutions and the intersection of politics, constitutionalism, and criminal justice. He served in the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. His work involved federal prosecutions of violent crime related to gang activity, drug trafficking, organized crime, and racketeering.


    Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum

    Jelani Jefferson Exum, Dean and Philip J. McElroy Professor of Law is a nationally recognized expert in sentencing law and procedure. Dean Jefferson Exum mainly writes in the area of sentencing law and policy, but her research interests also include comparative criminal law and procedure, policing, and the impact of race on criminal justice.

Representative Courses

Every student at Detroit Mercy Law is required to take an introductory Criminal Law course their first year. After that, students interested in criminal law may take criminal law electives that are offered.

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    Criminal Sentencing

    This course examines the law of sentencing from both a practical and theoretical perspective. The content and meaning of both the Michigan and U.S. Sentencing Guidelines schemes will be explored. Constitutional, statutory, and judicial limitations will also be examined.


    Death Penalty in the United States

    This course examines the United States Supreme Court's death penalty jurisprudence since the late 1960s, with particular emphasis on the development of the Court's 8th Amendment 'death is different' jurisprudence.


    Access to Justice

    This course examines the history, policies, practices, and laws that demonstrate how the legal system addresses access to justice for all people, including those with economic needs or other barriers that prevent them from using the system effectively.


    Prosecution Skills in the 21st Century

    This course will examine the unique career, and role, of the criminal prosecutor. In particular, it evaluates the ways in which prosecutors fulfill their obligation to seek justice.


    Juvenile Justice

    A study of the juvenile justice system, including roles of law enforcement, schools, courts and social agencies, with emphasis on the juvenile court law and procedure. It will consider the problems which arise in the application of constitutional safeguards to the existing system.


    Selected Topics in Criminal Law

    This course will explore the nature and scope of the substantive federal criminal law, giving particular attention to the federal government's role in proscribing crimes of violence, drug crimes, and other street-level criminal activity.


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    Criminal Trial Clinic

    Students represent misdemeanor defendants in district courts. The course prepares students for all practical aspects of criminal defense, including bonds, arraignments, discovery, preliminary examinations, pre-trial motions, plea negotiations, and sentencing guidelines.


    Conviction Integrity Clinic

    The Conviction Integrity Clinic is a collaboration between Detroit Mercy Law and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). The CIU was created by Prosecutor Kym Worthy in 2018 to address wrongful convictions. Valerie Newman has been the director of the CIU since its inception and is the director of the clinic. The clinic provides students with the opportunity to help incarcerated individuals with felony convictions who claim innocence and who otherwise may not have access to legal services. The goal of this course is to educate law students about the issues which lead to wrongful convictions and to engage students directly in the review of actual innocence claims made by individuals who have been convicted of a crime.


As a student, you will have the opportunity to complete an externship. Many Detroit Mercy Law students gain experience in their externships in different areas of criminal law.

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    Recent Externship Placements

    “In my externship, I learned about each part of a criminal case from the prosecutor’s perspective. Overall, I was involved in everything from the initial charging decision being made to sentencing at the conclusion of a trial. I went from observing preliminary examinations to conducting them under the supervision of a prosecutor.”



    Sean Barry '22, Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office


    “As an extern I was able to get a glimpse into the world of criminal law. I had the opportunity to attend court hearings, draft legal letters, utilize different research platforms, and evaluate the viability of many wrongful conviction cases. The Conviction Integrity Unit allowed me to refine integral skills, such as my legal writing, oral advocacy, and research. I will be able to apply these skills into my final two years of law school and my future legal career.”



    Macy Murasky '23, Michigan Department of the Attorney General, Conviction Integrity Unit

Criminal Law Society

The Criminal Law Society is a professional organization of law students dedicated to increasing social awareness of the criminal justice system through service, mentorship, and networking. Whether your interests are prosecution- or defense-oriented, or public service in general, our group provides the best vehicle for you to share those interests with other like-minded individuals. The Criminal Law Society strives to provide all students interested in criminal law with the necessary resources to be successful in law school, practice, and beyond.

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