Ever since the United States Supreme Court decided in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) that a poor person is entitled to competent representation, there has been no formal program designed to address the need for competent criminal defense investigators.  No lawyers, prosecution or defense are actually taught how to investigate cases.  Rather, they rely upon the expertise of their investigators.  Prosecutors enjoy an unfair advantage because; their investigators are sent through the police academy for several months to attend standardized in-service training programs on a regular basis.  Thus, one of the greatest concerns within the defense bar is the lack of competent defense investigators.  This, in part, leads to wrongful convictions because of representational ignorance and incompetence. 

Now, through the Valparaiso University School of Law, a Defense Investigator Certification Program has been specially designed to ensure that people charged with crimes can be assured the best possible representation available. The program: Certificate in Defense Investigation (CDI), is a 7-week program offered through Valparaiso University that addresses Criminal and Civil Rights investigation, history of defendant’s right to competent representation, social networking as an investigative tool, evidentiary considerations, witness interviewing, developing case theory through investigation, locating witnesses,  ethics and the defense investigator, client-investigator relationships, legal framework of privilege, search and seizure concerns,  process service, discovery rules that affect the defense investigator, legal research for the defense investigator, testifying, issues concerning firearms and ballistics, report writing, forensics and the use of science, and fatal wounds in homicide cases. The course has both a classroom and field component.

The program is intended for individuals who either work as criminal defense investigators or have the desire to do so. Such persons may include but not be limited to:

  • County Public Defender investigators
  • State Appellate Defender investigators
  • Federal Defender investigators
  • Private Investigators
  • Forensic Social Workers
  • Social Science majors
  • Criminal Justice majors
  • Paralegals
  • Legal Investigators

Prior experience is not required as the topics will cover basic defense investigative techniques and methodology.  Field placement will be supervised by certified criminal defense investigators. 

The two lead instructors are recognized and well respected within the defense community.  Mort Smith, M.A. is an author and a Criminal Defense and Civil Rights Investigative Specialist.  He currently works as the Staff Investigator for the Law Offices of Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.  For three decades, Mr. Smith has coordinated, conducted, and supervised Capital Criminal Defense Investigations in State and Federal cases, conducted investigations on behalf of civil plaintiffs, and provided consultation to private investigators and security practitioners on a national basis.  He was the former Chief Homicide Investigator for the Murder Task Force Unit of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and former Chief Investigator of the Illinois Capital Resource Center of the Office of the State Appellate Defender.  Mr. Smith is on the faculty of the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College that meets annually to offer weeklong intensive training on competent representation of clients charged in capital cases.  Mr. Smith has had extensive teaching and mentoring experience.  He has taught Criminal Investigation courses and has assisted law students and faculty assigned to the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School with Post Conviction Investigations, several clients having since been exonerated.  Smith has also served as Clinical Instructor at DePaul University, mentoring JD Candidates assigned to the Death Penalty Clinic, Misdemeanor Clinic, Family Law Legal Clinic and Civil Rights Legal Clinic on procedures for conducting pretrial and post-trial investigations in preparation for hearings, trials, petitions, etc. 

Kevin W. McClain is a licensed Private Investigator in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.  He is a Board Certified Criminal Defense Investigator and President of Kevin W. McClain Investigation, Ltd., a multi-state investigative firm with 30 investigators providing over 300 years of investigative experience.  He is qualified as an expert in Criminal Investigations, and Standard Field Sobriety Testing.  He has also been a college instructor in personal security.  Mr. McClain has gained distinction as one of the region’s premier Private Investigators, assisting some of the finest criminal defense and civil attorneys with major felonies, personal injuries, wrongful deaths, excessive force, shootings, corporate investigations and high profile media cases.  He has been a featured speaker at many national conferences and has spoken for the IICLE Defending Illinois Death Penalty cases and the IICLE Defending DUI’s and DUI Advocacy Academy.  He also was a featured speaker at the Indiana Public Defenders council on Sex Crimes and Molestation cases and the Missouri Criminal Defense Lawyers on “the Utilization of an Investigator.”  McClain has special expertise in the field of Internet and Social Media and cyber investigations.  He has developed and delivered numerous investigative and attorney investigative training programs and is a founding faculty member of the nationally acclaimed Essentials of Defense Investigation Training Institute for criminal attorneys and investigators.  He has had the distinction of being part of the defense team on two Illinois Death Penalty cases which were dismissed prior to trial and he has conducted over 70 Death Penalty investigations.  Mr. McClain has also worked with the Center of Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, is on the faculty at the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College at DePaul University, and is a contract investigator for the Illinois Innocence Project. 

Participants will receive direct contact time.  This time is represented by 30 hours in the classroom and approximately 12 hours in field placement.  There are also reading and homework assignments.  The featured text that will be utilized as a guide during the course is the powerful new book from the American Bar Association “Team Defense in Criminal Cases” written by Andrea Lyon and Mort Smith.  Throughout the program the following instructional approaches will be used:

  • Reading all assignments prior to coming to class
  • Instructor presentations emphasizing the key principles  and practices for each topic
  • Group exercises
  • Field Placement
  • Homework/writing exercises
  • Class discussion
  • Identifying the consequences of non-compliance with rules and laws
  • Case studies

The program will be offered over 7 weekends (Friday and/or Saturday) in the spring of 2015.  The location is Valparaiso University’s Hyde Park campus in Chicago, located at 1100 East 55th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60615.  Enrollment is limited to 24.  Based on demand, the program will be repeated in the fall of 2015.  Tuition for the 7-week program is $1500.  Discounts are available for those in public service, including public defenders and not-for-profit organizations. Group discounts are also available for parties of 5-9, and 10 and above.  A seat deposit of $100 will be required at the time of registration.  The certificate (signed by the instructors and a Valparaiso University administrator) and continuing education units (CEU) will be awarded by the Office of Continuing Education at Valparaiso University.  

For more information or to register for this course, please contact: Kevin W. McClain Investigations, Ltd by calling 1-877-532-1152 or email us at info@mcclaininvestigations.com.  You may also visit our website at www.mcclaininvestigations.com