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How did Washington Innocence Project get started?

In 1997, Jackie McMurtrie founded Washington Innocence Project—then called Innocence Project Northwest—at UW School of Law as a volunteer project. It was the third innocence organization and second “Innocence Project” in the country. Jackie was inspired by the Frontline documentary “What Jennifer Saw,” which tells the story of a North Carolina man who spent 10 years in prison before he was exonerated of two rapes committed in the 1980s.

In the beginning, Washington Innocence Project was made up of a handful of volunteers investigating cases after receiving letters from inmates who were pleading for help. The organization’s first freed clients and exonerees were 11 men and women who were wrongfully convicted in connection with the infamous Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions. Jackie began teaching the Washington Innocence Project Clinic in 2002, and Policy Director Lara Zarowsky taught the Legislative Advocacy Clinic from 2011 – 2019. We now receive over 500 requests for legal assistance every year and continue to advocate with our pro bono partners on behalf of Washington’s wrongly convicted.