September 26, 2022


Creating Possibilities

Lady serving a lifetime sentence will go to Mitchell Hamline law

The acceptance of Mitchell Hamline University of Law’s newest scholar was this sort of a significant deal that Dean Anthony Niedwiecki wanted to supply the news in-person very last 7 days — on the grounds of the point out women’s prison in Shakopee.

Maureen Onyelobi

Maureen Onyelobi, who is serving a existence sentence for murder with no opportunity of parole, will be the very first incarcerated pupil in the region to show up at a legislation school authorized by the American Bar Affiliation.

“Probably the highlight of my career,” Niedwiecki reported of their visit. “She was just so shocked and just so thrilled she didn’t even know what to say at very first.”

Onyelobi, 36, aspired to go to law faculty ahead of she was arrested in 2014. Very last 12 months, she turned the initially female to consider the LSAT — the legislation school admissions exam — whilst incarcerated.

To acknowledge her, St. Paul-primarily based Mitchell Hamline had to get a variance from the ABA that will permit her attend courses solely on line. Under that variance, the faculty can admit up to two incarcerated learners each individual of the upcoming five yrs.

Niedwiecki explained Onyelobi “exceeded our minimal expectations of obtaining into regulation college, so it was not a shut get in touch with.”

And though Onyelobi may possibly under no circumstances get out of prison, the dean is self-confident her education and learning will reward herself and other people.

“Knowledge is energy. If you can give them that know-how, then they can be much more successful advocates,” Niedwiecki explained. “I also believe this is terrific for our students, since the learners that are in the classroom are going to be able to hear from any individual who’s a component of the program by now.”

Donors and Mitchell Hamline scholarships will deal with her tuition, the college said.

MURDER Scenario

Onyelobi experienced been marketing heroin with her boyfriend, Maurice Wilson, and yet another guy, David Johnson, when Wilson was arrested on federal drug rates in March 2014, in accordance to court documents.

Wilson later on put a cellphone call from jail to Onyelobi and Johnson, in which he urged them to “take treatment of” Anthony Fairbanks, who was Wilson’s co-defendant in the federal case.

Afterwards that day, Onyelobi lured Fairbanks outside his Minneapolis property, the place Johnson shot and killed him.

A Hennepin County jury convicted Onyelobi as an accomplice to initial-diploma murder, which carries a necessary sentence of everyday living in prison with no opportunity of parole.

Johnson pleaded responsible to 2nd-diploma murder and obtained a 40-year jail sentence.

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

“A large amount of times I’ll replay that night time, but there’s almost nothing I can do. All I can do is move ahead,” Onyelobi explained to WCCO-Television previous yr. “Most people deserves a second probability.”


The Minneapolis nonprofit All Square, which supports incarcerated persons, served make Onyelobi’s legislation university admission take place. Its subsidiary, the Authorized Revolution, centers the experience of these most impacted by the legislation and permits them to turn into brokers inside it.

“From an absence of liberty comes an curiosity in mastering the law not out of curiosity, or as an educational work out, or strictly in pursuit of a vocation,” Elizir Daris, a former inmate and co-founder of the Legal Revolution, wrote in a column in the Hennepin County Bar Association’s publication. “Learning the rudiments of legislation is a essential car for flexibility.”

Mitchell Hamline, which is identified for its on the net, evening and weekend courses, also has led several initiatives that guidance the incarcerated, such as a clinic that helps folks as they are introduced from custody.

“This might only be one particular man or woman, but this is a single particular person opening the door for so lots of other folks,” Niedwiecki reported. “That cumulative effect is going to be massive for our justice method in Minnesota, and I hope we’re not the past university that does this.”