Hadar Harris, Executive Director
Hadar Harris joins NCIP after 13 years as the Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law (AU) in Washington, DC. A California native, Harris grew the AU Center into a vibrant hub of activity, raising over $5 million in new funding and creating multiple new core programmatic initiatives. Under her leadership, the Center had an annual program of approximately 50 events and conferences, a variety of grant-funded programs and approximately 20 ongoing collaborative projects with partners around the world.
Harris has worked on criminal justice reform issues through the broad lens of civil and political rights and racial justice issues. As an international human rights attorney, she brings a comparative perspective of work in over 25 countries, with NGOs, governments, academics and intergovernmental organizations. Earlier in her career, she served as Executive Director of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a bipartisan legislative service organization of the US House of Representatives, under the leadership of the late Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA).
Harris holds a BA in Political Science from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and a Juris Doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Linda Starr, Legal Director
Linda Starr received her J.D. from the University of Southern California Law Center and clerked for the California Court of Appeal upon graduation. She was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, where she wrote and argued post-conviction matters before state and federal courts and was a supervisor in the Sex Crimes and Special Victims Unit. Starr worked as a staff attorney at the Sixth District Appellate Program in California and then privately represented indigent criminal defendants on appeal. In 2001, she co-founded NCIP with Cookie Ridolfi.
Aaron Aguas-Rao, Case Manager
Aaron Aguas-Rao received her J.D. from George Washington University Law School in 1997. She served for several years as a Staff Attorney with the Superior Court Self-Service Center, and Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. She served for two years as the Co-Chair of the Policy and Research Committee of the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence. Aguas-Rao handles case review and investigation focusing on claims of innocence.
Maitreya Badami, Assistant Legal Director
Maitreya Badami received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law in 1994. She spent 16 years in criminal defense, both as a deputy public defender and in private practice. Badami has litigated both trial and appellate cases, in California state and federal courts. She has been a panel attorney for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, litigating direct appeals and habeas corpus petitions.
Rhonda Dyer, Database Administrator
Rhonda Dyer customizes, manages and troubleshoots the database programs NCIP uses. Her expertise with Microsoft programs such as Excel and Access and her ability to customize other programs to suit NCIP’s needs have been invaluable. Much of her time in this part-time position is spent managing NCIP’s largest program, Amicus Attorney, which houses information on the 7000+ people and 3000+ files related to the Project. Dyer is retired after a career at Hewlett Packard and, in her spare time, she and her search and rescue dogs seek lost people in remote locations for local law enforcement organizations.
Kelley Fleming, Staff Attorney
Kelley Fleming received her J.D. from Whittier Law School in 2007, after having been a teacher for several years. She was practicing in the field of special education prior to serving as a Deputy Public Defender in Humboldt County. Fleming maintains a caseload focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Todd Fries, Associate Director
Todd Fries graduated cum laude from Santa Clara Law in 2009 with a certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice after completing his Bachelor of Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to working at NCIP, he worked at Paul Hastings LLP and the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Family Law Self-Help Office. Fries began working for the Northern California Innocence Project in 2007 as a clinical law student and returned to NCIP in 2010 as a research fellow as part of the law school’s post-graduate fellowship program. He currently serves as NCIP’s Associate Director.
Jaclyn Gioiosa, Operations and Communications Associate
Jaclyn Gioiosa is a recent cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in Creative Nonfiction, minor in Legal Studies and successfully completed the university’s Honors in Humanities Program. Prior to joining NCIP, she interned for Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, Vanessa A. Zecher and worked as a College Law Clerk at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Additionally, she served as the Student Assistant for USF’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Office of Graduate Studies for all four years of her undergraduate career.
Paige Kaneb, Supervising Attorney
Paige Kaneb is a recent cum laude graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law and graduated from Hamilton College in 2000. Prior to working at the Innocence Project, Kaneb interned at the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office as a law clerk and worked for the Institute for Global Justice researching ways to sue and prosecute oil companies and banks for corrupt practices linked to extreme poverty and human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea.
Sandy Lichau, Office Manager
Sandy Lichau has worked at the law clinic since 1971. Prior to joining Santa Clara University she studied at San Jose State University and worked at the law firm of Tunney, Carlyle & Bennett. Lichau provides direct administrative support to the director, legal director, attorneys and case manager, and guidance and support to the law students.
Andrea “Dre” McEwen, Staff Attorney
Dre received her JD from Northeastern University School of Law in 2002. She has worked as an Investigative Attorney and Senior Legal Investigator at the California Appellate Project (CAP), as an Investigator at the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints, and as a court-appointed Mitigation Expert and Private Investigator.
Melissa Dague O’Connell, Staff Attorney & Policy Liaison
Melissa Dague O’Connell received her J.D. from Santa Clara Law in 2003, with a certificate in Public Interest. She served for several years a Deputy Public Defender in Solano County, and most recently was a criminal defense attorney with Cooper Law Offices. O’Connell supervises NCIP students and maintains a caseload of her own focusing on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
Karyn Sinunu-Towery, Volunteer Attorney
Karyn Sinunu-Towery retired as an Assistant District Attorney at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in December 2013, after thirty years of service, and joined NCIP as a Volunteer Attorney in January 2014. As an Assistant District Attorney, she prosecuted some of the most difficult and complex criminal cases including murder, sex offenses, and white collar crimes. Sinunu-Towery was the prosecutor who reinvestigated the case of an innocent man, Rick Walker, and worked for his freedom. She served on the Board of California District Attorneys Association.