Jackson discovered his career ambition in a class taught by political scientist Frank Baumgartner that Hill took as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he majored in economics. “The class focused on racial disparities in the United States death penalty and the number of innocent people who have been wrongly sentenced to die,” Hill recalled. “I knew working against the death penalty was what I had to do—it’s the reason I went to law school.”
Baumgartner became Hill’s mentor, and Hill worked as his research assistant to develop databases of death sentences and news coverage of wrongful convictions in North Carolina. Hill also assisted Baumgartner with research on racial disparities in traffic stop search rates, contributing to Baumgartner’s published work in that field.