In the fall 2019, the Innocence Clinic received the State’s response to a federal habeas petition filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Mackenzie naturally emerged as the leader of the group, while dealing with the time pressure and learning about a case the Clinic had been litigating since 2012. The specific law involved in federal habeas petitions is complex, which added to the pressures of the case. Mackenzie remained calm and focused in her work and kept the team calm and focused. Her research and writing on the project was excellent. Her ability to work with other students, while learning the area of federal habeas law was exemplary. She identified the weaknesses in the State’s arguments with a logic that far exceeded her status as a 2L. While this project took the majority of the semester to complete, Mackenzie performed other clinic duties with great detail, care and timeliness.
Mackenzie was also assigned to draft a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in case where the clinic had been waiting for a year to get a ruling on a 3.850 motion. Based on her draft of the Petition, the First District Court of Appeal issued a show cause order which in turn prompted the court to issue its long overdue order.The challenges posed by COVID-19 did not diminish Mackenzie’s dedication. She was assigned a case in which the Clinic has represented the client since 2013. The case has been hard-fought and an evidentiary hearing remains to be scheduled due to COVID-19 court restrictions. Mackenzie drafted a motion for the compassionate release of our elderly client who will be 80 in August and has diabetes among other ailments. This puts him at risk of death from COVID-19 according to the CDC. Mackenzie not only drafted the motion, but recognized the time sensitivity and drafted it expeditiously. While there is no Florida law on the subject, she was able to find some authority and
analogize current federal law on the issue. After the motion was filed, the Judge ordered the State to respond and also ordered a response from the Department of Corrections. Most importantly, the Clinic was contacted by the prosecution to discuss a resolution that would result in the client’s release. Mackenzie has already drafted a response to the State’s forthcoming and anticipated response. Once the State’s response is received, her draft will be edited and a reply will be filed within hours.
And thanks to Professor Ricardo Bascuas and Georgina Angones for their help in both setting up this award and for looking after it every year. It means a lot to me and my family.