Female serving a lifestyle sentence will go to Mitchell Hamline legislation

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The acceptance of Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s newest university student was this kind of a big offer that Dean Anthony Niedwiecki needed to supply the information in-man or woman previous week — on the grounds of the point out women’s prison in Shakopee.

Maureen Onyelobi

Maureen Onyelobi, who is serving a lifetime sentence for murder with no likelihood of parole, will be the to start with incarcerated pupil in the region to attend a legislation university accredited by the American Bar Affiliation.

“Probably the highlight of my career,” Niedwiecki stated of their go to. “She was just so stunned and just so thrilled she did not even know what to say at initial.”

Onyelobi, 36, aspired to go to legislation college ahead of she was arrested in 2014. Last 12 months, she became the initial woman to take the LSAT — the law university admissions check — while incarcerated.

To confess her, St. Paul-dependent Mitchell Hamline experienced to get a variance from the ABA that will allow her go to classes fully on-line. Less than that variance, the college can admit up to two incarcerated students each and every of the future 5 decades.

Niedwiecki said Onyelobi “exceeded our minimum amount specifications of finding into legislation university, so it wasn’t a close call.”

And while Onyelobi may never get out of jail, the dean is self-confident her schooling will profit herself and other folks.

“Knowledge is energy. If you can give them that knowledge, then they can be additional helpful advocates,” Niedwiecki stated. “I also feel this is wonderful for our students, since the college students that are in the classroom are heading to be in a position to hear from somebody who’s a aspect of the system presently.”

Donors and Mitchell Hamline scholarships will address her tuition, the college reported.


Onyelobi experienced been advertising heroin with her boyfriend, Maurice Wilson, and an additional male, David Johnson, when Wilson was arrested on federal drug prices in March 2014, according to courtroom documents.

Wilson later put a telephone phone from jail to Onyelobi and Johnson, in which he urged them to “take care of” Anthony Fairbanks, who was Wilson’s co-defendant in the federal circumstance.

Afterwards that working day, Onyelobi lured Fairbanks outdoors his Minneapolis residence, wherever Johnson shot and killed him.

A Hennepin County jury convicted Onyelobi as an accomplice to first-degree murder, which carries a necessary sentence of daily life in prison with no chance of parole.

Johnson pleaded guilty to next-degree murder and bought a 40-calendar year prison sentence.

Onyelobi afterwards argued she didn’t know Johnson was heading to shoot Fairbanks, but the Minnesota Supreme Court docket upheld her conviction.

“A whole lot of situations I’ll replay that night, but there is nothing at all I can do. All I can do is move ahead,” Onyelobi explained to WCCO-Television set very last year. “Every person warrants a second likelihood.”


The Minneapolis nonprofit All Square, which supports incarcerated people today, aided make Onyelobi’s law university admission come about. Its subsidiary, the Lawful Revolution, facilities the experience of those people most impacted by the regulation and permits them to grow to be agents in just it.

“From an absence of liberty comes an fascination in mastering the legislation not out of curiosity, or as an tutorial physical exercise, or strictly in pursuit of a occupation,” Elizir Daris, a previous inmate and co-founder of the Authorized Revolution, wrote in a column in the Hennepin County Bar Association’s publication. “Learning the rudiments of legislation is a vital motor vehicle for flexibility.”

Mitchell Hamline, which is identified for its on the web, night time and weekend courses, also has led quite a few initiatives that help the incarcerated, which includes a clinic that assists persons as they’re launched from custody.

“This may possibly only be a person man or woman, but this is a single man or woman opening the doorway for so quite a few many others,” Niedwiecki mentioned. “That cumulative result is heading to be huge for our justice system in Minnesota, and I hope we’re not the past faculty that does this.”