The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) was started in 2001 by Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi and Linda Starr at a moment when new legislation had been adopted in California (CA Penal Code Section 1405) to permit convicted inmates to seek DNA testing to prove their innocence. Both Ms. Ridolfi and Ms. Starr had worked for many years as trial and appellate attorneys in the criminal justice system. Seeing an opportunity to rectify errors in the system and free innocent people, they co-founded NCIP. Working with volunteer staff and law students in an existing criminal law clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law (SCU Law), they immediately took on cases which would lead to NCIP’s first exoneration in 2002.
Today, NCIP has 12 full-time staff members. Ms. Ridolfi has returned to teaching full-time at SCU Law, while Ms. Starr remains NCIP’s legal director. Hadar Harris joined the NCIP team in 2015 as executive director. While NCIP is a project of SCU Law, we raise our own funds through individual donations and grants and administer our own budget. Dozens of law students, volunteer attorneys and investigators assist in our work. Over the years, thousands of inmates have sought NCIP’s help. To date, NCIP has attained justice for 18 innocent people who, collectively, spent more than 230 years in prison.