Northern California Innocence Project held its annual Justice for All event on Thursday, March 12. Hosted by KQED’s Rachael Myrow, the NCIP event honors individuals for their exceptional dedication to freeing the wrongfully convicted and to reforming the criminal justice system. The evening showcases the inspiring stories of those who fought to regain their freedom with the help of NCIP and pro bono partners and donors.

“These cases are so hard to win, but they are so important,” said 2015 Pro Bono Award recipient Elliot Peters from Keker & Van Nest LLP. “There is nothing nobler or more righteous for a lawyer to do, and nothing in my career that I am more proud of, than fighting for John and Ronald and the innocent.”

“Please everyone, give to the NCIP, support their work, keep the faith,” Peters said. “There are innocent people suffering behind bars, and as long as that is true, we must never, ever give up the fight.”

Read more about this year’s Justice for All Awards Ceremony.

Northern California Innocence Project Executive Director David Onek

Northern California Innocence Project Executive Director David Onek

This year’s honorees included the following:

Leadership Award: State Senator Mark Leno

California State Senator Leno has been an ardent supporter and champion of criminal justice reform. His leadership has led to numerous pieces of legislation addressing wrongful convictions and justice for all.

Pro Bono Award: Elliot Peters, Keker & Van Nest, LLP

Elliot Peters and his team at Keker & Van Nest LLP, spent countless pro bono hours working to exonerate NCIP client, Ronald Ross, and have exonerated other wrongfully convicted prisoners. Keker & Van Nest LLP also represented Mr. Ross at his compensation hearing before the California State Compensation Board.

Jeff Rosen and Russell Wilson

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen presenting Russell Wilson the Justice Award. Wilson accepted the award on behalf of former Dallas County DA Craig Watkins

Justice Award: Craig Watkins

Former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins’ dedication to justice has helped exonerate 34 wrongfully convicted inmates through his Conviction Integrity Unit. His leadership helped motivate several other district attorneys’ offices to create Conviction Integrity Units.

Cookie Ridolfi Freedom Award: Kirk Bloodsworth

Kirk Bloodsworth was the first death row inmate to be exonerated based on DNA testing. He inspired the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, created by Congress in 2004, to help defray the costs of DNA testing for those innocent people who still remain incarcerated.

Media Award: Nikki Pope & Courtney Lance, authors of “Pruno, Ramen & A Side of Hope.”

Co-authored by Nikki Pope, attorney and NCIP advisory board member, & Courtney Lance, “Pruno, Ramen & A Side of Hope” is a collection of stories from wrongfully convicted people who eventually proved their innocence. These poignant, funny, heartbreaking stories reveal what gave them hope and helped them survive.

Through the support of the sponsors and attendees who made the event possible, this year’s ceremony was a rousing success. NCIP would like to thank all who attended and offered their support.

NCIP exoneree Franky Carrillo

NCIP exoneree Franky Carrillo

About the Northern California Innocence Project

The mission of the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) is to promote a fair, effective and compassionate criminal justice system and protect the rights of the innocent.

Founded in 2001, the NCIP operates as a free legal clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law, where law students work with staff and pro bono attorneys to investigate claims of innocence and, when appropriate, provide legal representation to wrongfully convicted prisoners.

We work to exonerate indigent, wrongfully convicted prisoners by proving their innocence; help law enforcement apprehend the correct perpetrator; study the systemic causes of wrongful convictions; and pursue policy changes designed to improve the fairness of the justice system for all of us.

NCIP has handled more than 10,000 requests for assistance from inmates, and has exonerated 17 people. Visit the NCIP site to learn more.