Faculty & Staff




Co-Director, Hawai'i Innocence Project
Faculty Specialist


BA, Wittenberg College, 1986
JD, University of Cincinnati College of Law, 1989


Ken Lawson is the Co-Director of the Hawai‘i Innocence Project and a Faculty Specialist at the William S. Richardson Law School where he teaches Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, Professional Responsibility, Evidence, and Hawai‘i Innocence Project. He had a successful practice in Cincinnati until his license to practice law was revoked because of misconduct while addicted to  prescription painkillers. He pled guilty to the felony of obtaining controlled substances by fraudulent means and was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by a year of supervised release.

Ken started his legal career as an associate in one of Ohio’s oldest and largest law firms. He eventually started his own firm, which grew to 12 lawyers. Over that 18 year period, he was lead counsel in more than a hundred criminal trials, including many murder and capital cases. He also litigated numerous civil rights and police misconduct cases in both federal and state courts, and had an active appellate practice. Ken won numerous cases that were considered by many to be“unwinnable." These and many of Ken’s other cases were followed closely by the media, and he made frequent appearances on CBS, ABC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Court TV, and numerous radio shows. Some of these related to his own cases but he also was frequently asked to comment on legal issues in other newsworthy cases.

Ken’s high-profile clientele included NFL star Elbert “Ickey” Woods, star NFL and professional baseball player Deion Sanders, and entertainer Peter Frampton. More important to Ken, he represented many “everyday” people, including a single mother whose juvenile son, incarcerated in an Ohio prison for adults, had died after being stabbed 16 times by the leader of a racist hate group, the Aryan Nation. Approximately one-fourth of Ken’s cases were done pro bono. Since moving to Hawaiʻi, Ken has made presentations in the judiciary’s juvenile drug court program, a statewide gathering of county prosecutors, annual meeting of the government lawyers section of the bar, state supreme court’s mandatory professionalism program, state bar association’s annual convention, disciplinary board of the state supreme court, several law firms, the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association and numerous others groups of lawyers. 

Ken frequently gives motivational talks to athletic teams, such as the University of Hawai‘i Wahine Volleyball team and the University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Warriors football team, and to an array of corporate groups. The law school’s Classes of 2014 and 2018 selected Ken to deliver their graduation address, and Ken received the Board of Regents’ Excellence in Teaching Award in 2017. 

Teaching areas: Criminal Law, Criminal procedure, Evidence, Criminal Trial Practice, Wrongful Convictions, Professional Responsibility, and the Hawai‘i Innocence Project. 

Ken is a board member of the ACLU Hawai‘i. Ken is also serving his second term on the Board of Directors of the National Innocence Network.

Related News

Attorney Rick Fried Joins Hawai‘i Innocence Project at UH Law School as Co-Director

UH Law Faculty Specialist Ken Lawson Honored With 2017 Regents’ Excellence in Teaching Award

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