American Justice at Work: Rwanda Genocide Presentation

The Washburn University School of Law Chapter of the American Association for Justice, in partnership with the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, will host lawyers Kurt Kerns and Melanie Morgan at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 19, as they share their experiences in the first-ever prosecution in the United States related to the Rwandan genocide. The presentation takes place at the Kansas Association for Justice Center at 719 SW Van Buren, Topeka, Kan.

Eighteen years ago, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were killed at the end of the four-year civil war in Rwanda. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, attempts have been made to bring the perpetrators to justice, but in the course of that process thousands of innocents have been implicated, including Lazare Kobagaya. Kerns and Morgan helped to expose the injustice -- prisoners forced to accuse, lack of legal procedural safeguards in the Rwandan system, corruption in the government and bribery of witnesses -- which ultimately led to the dismissal of all charges against their client. Join Kobagaya's legal defense team as they highlight this case as an example of American justice at work.

More about the speakers:

Kurt Kerns is a well-known veteran of the criminal and international criminal defense communities whose practice focuses on serious federal and state felonies. He is the founding partner of the Wichita firm Ariagno, Kerns, Mank and White, LLC. A regular in courtrooms around the state, Kerns has tried more than 100 jury trials. He shares his keen sense of justice, passion for the law, and sharp trial skills with other lawyers at Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College where he has been a faculty member since 2004. In recognition for his efforts in the Kobagaya case, he received the prestigious Courageous Attorney Award from the Kansas Bar Association in 2010.

Melanie Morgan is also a well-known criminal defense lawyer based in Kansas City whose practice focuses on federal criminal litigation. She has served as the former president of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and has been named to the top 50 women attorneys in the midwest by Superlawyer Magazine. Morgan and her firm Morgan Pilate have developed a reputation as top litigators in the arena of civil rights violations and wrongful convictions.

Posted April 18, 2012.

Photograph: Jeff Wilson, Melanie Morgan, Robert Moody, and Kurt Kerns.

First year law student Jeff Wilson, attorney Melanie Morgan, first year law student Robert Moody, and attorney Kurt Kerns