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Who We AreWe are lawyers, advocates, and truth seekers.

We envision a fair justice system that always seeks the truth so innocent people never have to spend a day in prison.

Our team fights for innocent people, providing free legal and investigative services to those who have been wrongfully convicted. We are the only independent, nonpartisan voice in Washington State advancing key reforms to prevent wrongful convictions and improve our justice system.

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Our Staff

Executive & Policy Director

Lara Zarowsky

University of Washington School of Law

Lara Zarowsky is the Executive & Policy Director of the Washington Innocence Project. Following her work as non-partisan counsel in the Washington State Legislature, Lara joined Washington Innocence Project in 2010 to lead its policy efforts.

In 2011, Lara joined the faculty of the University of Washington School of Law to establish the Washington Innocence Project track of the Legislative Advocacy Clinic, which she directed from 2014 to 2019. Her clinic students championed a 2013 law to compensate Washington’s wrongly convicted, a 2015 law to preserve biological evidence collected from crime scenes, and a 2019 law to establish and implement best practices for gathering and use of eyewitness and incentivized witness evidence. In 2021 Lara led the successful legislative effort to mandate the recording of all custodial interrogations in Washington State.

Lara serves as Co-Vice President of the international Innocence Network Executive Board where she leads the coalition's efforts to design its evolved future structure. She received her undergraduate degree from the Evergreen State College, is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, alumna of the Washington Innocence Project Clinic, and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management through the University of Washington.

Litigation Director

John Marlow

University of Washington School of Law

John Marlow is the Litigation Director of the Washington Innocence Project, recently joining the team in 2023. For most of the last decade, John served as a public defense attorney. In that role, he has advocated for indigent clients in municipal, district, tribal, superior, and federal courts. He developed extensive jury trial experience and has also handled and consulted on dozens of direct criminal appeals.

John received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Washington. As a student, he led several organizations focusing on criminal and environmental justice reform and LGBTQ+ rights.

John grew up in a rural community in northeastern Spokane County. He has developed a strong connection to the people and environment of this State. Outside of work, you can find him biking, hiking, climbing, or kayaking with his dog (and sometimes cat), soaking up the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Kaylan Lovrovich

Staff Attorney

Programs & Operations Manager

Marriam Oliver

Marriam Oliver joined the Washington Innocence Project in 2022 as the Program & Operations Assistant. She was incarcerated for 20 years after being convicted and sentenced as an adult when she was 14 years old. She received an early release and came home in 2021.

While incarcerated at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), Marriam made good use of her time. In 2014 she became a founding member of Freedom Education Project of Puget Sound (FEPPS), a non-profit that provides access to college education for incarcerated women in Washington state and creates pathways to higher education after release from prison. In 2017, she received her Associate of Arts Degree from Tacoma Community College through FEPPS. Also in 2017, she became a certified, trauma-informed yoga teacher through a training program offered by Yoga Behind Bars (YBB). She now co-facilitates yoga workshops for YBB in juvenile facilities throughout the state of Washington. In 2015 while at WCCW, Marriam gave a Ted Talk entitled “Coming to a Neighborhood Near You” in which she focused on breaking down commonly held stereotypes about incarcerated people.

Marriam is committed to serving system-impacted community members regardless of guilt or innocence. She believes every stakeholder in our community must have the willingness to hear, listen and respect each other’s background and experience in order to have a community of equality, especially when reimagining policing and justice. As part of this commitment, Marriam shares her story and experience to new recruits of the Seattle Police Department through The If Project, a non-profit that brings together incarcerated and formerly incarcerated folks, community partners and law enforcement to focus on the reduction and prevention of incarceration and recidivism.

Programs & Operations Assistant

Elle Barksdale Loe

Under the steadfast blooming background of Elle Barksdale Loe, Washington’s Innocence Project’s brand is deployed in an innovative method to increase communal awareness. Her background includes marketing, brand and identity management, social media, the arts, and journalism. Elle’s contributions create an array of possibilities for individual fundraising and awareness raising campaigns.

Elle comes to the Washington Innocence Project with purposeful intent to change how we see things by performing good humanity, while continuing to write her own personal story and hard-fighting for policy reform in our legal system in hopes to turn truth into matter.


Peno Mclean-Riggs

Peno joined the Washington Innocence Project in 2023 as a Paralegal. Previously, she worked at a criminal defense law firm. Her passion for serving people impacted by the criminal justice system started from having loved ones who are incarcerated.

Peno graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018, with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature. She is bilingual, speaking fluent Spanish and English. In college, she also studied the history of the prison system in the United States.

In her spare time, Peno loves to read and spend time with Luna, her Chihuahua.

Sarah Beth Johnson

Staff Attorney

Jose Morales Pinel

Administrative Assistant

Our Founder

Jackie McMurtrie

Jackie McMurtrie

Founder and Of Counsel

Our Board

LaRond Baker

Board Vice President

Kim Cronin

Kim Cronin-Hillman

Board Treasurer

Board Member David Owens

David Owens

Board Secretary

Lester Griffin

Board Member

Kelly Canary

Kelly Canary

Board Member

Ha'im Sharif

Board Member

Our Story

We’ve been at it for more than 25 years.

In 1997, Professor Jacqueline McMurtrie founded Washington Innocence Project—then called Innocence Project Northwest—as the second Innocence Project in the United States. The organization’s core mission—to free innocent people—remains as critical today as it was then.

Through the work of our dedicated staff, students, and pro bono partners, along with the generous support of our donors, Washington Innocence Project has exonerated 15 men and women—and secured the freedom of an additional four—who collectively served 276 years incarcerated and on conditions of release for crimes they did not commit.

Our efforts to improve the criminal legal system in Washington State and support our Freed Family following release have led to important reforms and new laws for better eyewitness identification procedures, preservation of crime scene evidence, access to post-conviction DNA testing, and a mandate that law enforcement record interrogations. We led advocacy efforts for the law intended to compensate exonerees for every year they lost their lives serving time for a crime they didn’t commit.

Originally a project of the University of Washington School of Law, Washington Innocence Project was fortunate to enjoy the institution’s support as we grew over our first two decades. During that time, more than 200 UW Law students represented innocent Washingtonians and advocated in Olympia for policy and legislative changes to identify, prevent, and rectify cases of wrongful convictions.

Today, we are an independent 501(c)(3) organization. As the requests for help increase every year, this structure gives us greater latitude to raise funds, advocate for policies that prevent wrongful convictions, and grow to serve more innocent people.

Washington Innocence Project is honored to be a leading organization in the worldwide innocence movement. This is a role we could not play without the longtime support of so many.

Our Partners

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Northwest Film Forum Logo

And many more!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Washington Innocence Project?

Washington Innocence Project is an independent nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to men and women in Washington State who have been wrongfully convicted, helps prevent wrongful convictions through education and policy reform, and supports exonerees and freed individuals as they rebuild their lives in freedom.

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.

What is Washington Innocence Project’s relationship with the University of Washington?

We have transitioned from being a project of the University of Washington to an independent 501(c)(3) organization.

What is Washington Innocence Project’s relationship to other innocence organizations?

While we support and encourage each other, innocence organizations are financially independent organizations. We all provide free legal services to the wrongfully convicted and work to improve justice systems. Washington Innocence Project isn’t financially supported by the national Innocence Project or any other innocence organizations. We are the only innocence organization that serves Washington State—and the third innocence organization in the country to be established. To see a map of other innocence organizations, go to the Innocence Network web page.

Why did Washington Innocence Project become an independent nonprofit?

Our new status as a 501(3)(c) organization gives us more flexibility to raise funds, advocate for policies that could help prevent wrongful convictions, and grow to serve more innocent people. We will have more freedom to approach donors and apply for grants, with donations going directly toward freeing the innocent. Our new structure enables us to be stronger advocates, lobbying for policy change to prevent wrongful convictions, and signing onto amicus briefs in support of policies that align with our mission.

How is Washington Innocence Project funded?

Washington Innocence Project is primarily funded by private support from foundations, corporations, and individuals as well as by government grants. Washington Innocence Project receives limited support from the UW School of Law in connection with our clinical offering to students. We do not receive funding from the Innocence Project in New York City or any other innocence organization.

How are donations used?

The path to exoneration is long and costly—and gifts of every size help. Donations help us cover costs required to request documents for investigation, visit clients in prison, obtain DNA testing, consult forensic experts and more. The results from one DNA test, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 or more depending on the complexity of the case, can be life changing for an innocent person in prison.

How can I help free the innocent?

There are many ways that you can be a part of our work. Visit our Ways to Get Involved page for the most up-to-date information about opportunities to volunteer and ways to be an advocate.

What is your organization’s privacy policy?

Our organization takes its privacy policy seriously and takes steps to protect and ensure the safety of our supporters. We do not sell or otherwise disclose information about our volunteers or supporters outside of our immediate organization. This policy has no exceptions. We do not sell or exchange your information with any other organizations, public, private or nonprofit.

How do I request assistance from Washington Innocence Project?

Washington Innocence Project provides free legal services to innocent prisoners in Washington State. Visit our Get Help page to learn more and request an application.

Do you speak for clubs, organizations, or events?

We love telling our story and the stories of our freed clients and exonerees. Contact us with inquiries.

Are there organizations doing similar work in other states and countries?

Yes! There are innocence organizations dedicated to freeing innocent prisoners around the world. To learn more, check out the Innocence Network website.

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