December 2013 Bar Bulletin
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December 2013 Bar Bulletin

ACLU Honors Jackie McMurtrie, Founder of Innocence Project Northwest

 

The ACLU of Washington presented Innocence Project Northwest founder Jackie McMurtrie with its annual William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU-WA's highest honor, at its yearly Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner on November 9.

The William O. Douglas Award is a lifetime achievement award given for outstanding, consistent and sustained contributions to the cause of civil liberties. McMurtrie is a University of Washington School of Law professor who has devoted nearly 20 years to the pursuit of justice on behalf of individuals wrongly convicted and imprisoned in Washington. Her leadership has made a vital contribution to improving the integrity of our justice system.

McMurtrie founded the nation's third Innocence Project in 1997 and has built it from a small volunteer program into a prestigious clinical program at the UW Law School, involving scores of students and gaining dozens of releases. Its first big effort was in 1998 in response to the Wenatchee sex-abuse cases, where prosecutors had wrongfully charged 43 people with 29,726 counts of child sex abuse. It quickly became obvious that justice had given way to hysteria. Under McMurtrie's leadership, Innocence Project Northwest coordinated representation that gained the release of 11 individuals from prison.

The clinic's recent successes include the exonerations of five men who served a combined total of more than 50 years in Washington corrections institutions for crimes they did not commit. McMurtrie also has devoted considerable energy to advocating for systemic changes to prevent wrongful convictions. Her influence extends far beyond our state borders; her work was cited by the Tennessee Supreme Court in the reversal of a death penalty conviction.

The Washington office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - a Muslim civil rights organization - and Dream Act advocate Carlos Padilla also were honored at the dinner.

 

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