The Wrongly Convicted and Habeas Corpus

Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 11:30 am

“Twenty years ago, Grinnell College did something that no one else would do. They vouched for a young man who had lost everything and needed a second chance,” says Jeetander Dulani ’98. “Before applying to Grinnell, I had been homeless, and while I was able to get off the street thanks to public assistance, I knew I needed to go to college. A teacher recommended Grinnell, and I applied sight unseen.”

Then the College did something unprecedented. Grinnell’s Office of Financial Aid told the Department of Education that Dulani’s unique situation warranted treating him as an independent student, which allowed his financial aid application to be considered without parental information. The Department agreed. “Grinnell’s decision saved my life,” Dulani says. “Every other school that I considered followed Grinnell’s lead, and when it came time to make a decision, it was easy. How could I not choose a school that showed how much it believed in me? Grinnell bet on me – and I will always be grateful for that.”

Dulani has carried that gratitude with him throughout his career. He helped Amnesty International open a national office in Cape Town, South Africa. At Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C., he helped clients tackle complex national security, public health, and business operations issues.

Currently, he is a senior attorney at a leading Washington D.C., law firm, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP. At each stop, Dulani has sought out the toughest assignments, and won some of the most improbable victories.

The case that Dulani took on five years ago was no different. Despite being told that the case was unwinnable, Dulani lobbied to be appointed as counsel anyway. The case involved the Sixth Amendment's right to confrontation and a client, Elliot D. Ray, who was sent to prison at age 19. Ray had exhausted his appeals, and no court had considered his constitutional claims. Ray had one last chance of being heard by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Appointed to be Ray’s pro-bono habeas counsel, Dulani twice convinced the Court to create important new protections for criminal defendants. These included closing an apparent loophole in the protections provided by the Sixth Amendment, and created new protections for state prisoners submitting federal habeas petitions. Along the way, the Court vacated Ray’s conviction. Dulani then successfully defended the Seventh Circuit’s decisions by convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to deny review and let the rulings stand.

Dulani will discuss his legal work on Ray v. Boatwright and Ray v. Clements during a roundtable lunch at noon Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Rosenfield Center Room 101. The event is free and open to the public.

Dulani’s talk is part of his alumni residency at Grinnell. He will also teach a short seminar on the Sixth Amendment and habeas corpus and meet with students to talk about career planning and graduate school.

About Jeetander T. Dulani ’98

Dulani is a senior associate in the litigation practice at the Washington, D.C. office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. He concentrates his practice in complex civil litigation, appeals, government investigations, antitrust counseling and merger defense. He also maintains an active pro-bono practice focused on civil liberties and human rights.

Prior to attending law school, Dulani led a strategy consulting practice at Booz Allen Hamilton where he received Booz Allen’s Professional Excellence Award for initiating and leading a two-year, multimillion-dollar project on HIV/AIDS in India. He also served as an independent consultant to UNAIDS during law school.

In addition to his B.A. degree from Grinnell, Dulani holds an M.A. from the University of Iowa and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law.