Mission, Vision, & History

The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) is a non-profit clinical program of Santa Clara University School of Law. NCIP’s mission is to promote a fair, effective, and compassionate criminal justice system and protect the rights of the innocent. We challenge wrongful convictions on every front by exonerating the innocent, educating future attorneys, and reforming criminal justice policy.

NCIP envisions a criminal justice system that makes us safer, is cost-effective, and is fair and equitable. One that accurately separates the innocent from the guilty and treats all with fairness and compassion. NCIP strives to partner with all stakeholders - from law enforcement to advocates - to ensure that this vision is realized.

NCIP was founded 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 that would prove their innocence. Both Ridolfi and Starr had worked for many years as trial and appellate attorneys and saw opportunities to rectify errors in the system and free innocent people. At first working with volunteer staff and law students, they immediately took on cases that lead to NCIP’s first exoneration in 2002.

Staff & Advisory Board

NCIP Advisory Board

Jim Anderson

Founding Partner, Foundation Capital and Legacy Venture

Lindsay Andrews

Vice President, Sard Verbinnen & Co

Obie Anthony

Exoneree and Advocate

Margalynne Armstrong

Professor of Law, Santa Clara University

Franky Carrillo

Exoneree and Advocate

Rhonda Donato JD ’89

Director of Recruiting, Solutus Legal Search

Paul Grewal

Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Facebook

Nancy Heinen

Former Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Apple Computer, Inc.

Partner, SV2 Social Venture Fund

John Hollway

Executive Director, Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice

Ellen Kreitzberg

Professor of Law, Santa Clara University

Barmak Meftah

President & CEO, AlienVault

Rick Walker

Exoneree and Advocate

Elizabeth Zitrin

President, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Funders & Partners