Staff and Advisory Board

NCIP Staff

Linda Starr - Executive 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.

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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.

Paige Kaneb - Supervising Attorney

Paige Kaneb has worked at NCIP since 2007. In that time, she has helped free 14 of NCIP’s clients. Kaneb maintains her own caseload, supervises NCIP students, and has publications on actual innocence as a constitutional claim and wrongful convictions related to wrongful diagnoses of “shaken baby syndrome.” Kaneb received her J.D. from the University of San Francisco’s School of Law as a cum laude graduate.

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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 as 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.

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Sarah Pace - Staff Attorney

Sarah Pace joins NCIP after a clerkship with the Honorable Laurel Beeler of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. Before her clerkship, she worked at a litigation firm in San Francisco, where she focused her practice on pro bono matters, including advising Governor Newsom’s office with drafting and defending the 2019 moratorium on the death penalty in California as well as assisting prisoners, who had been convicted by unconstitutional non-unanimous juries in Louisiana, with their post-conviction relief applications. Sarah received her J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2018 with a certificate in Public Interest. While in law school, Sarah served as an Articles and Essays Editor on the California Law Review and worked at the East Bay Community Law Center in the Education, Defense, and Justice for Youth law clinic.

Aaron Aguas-Rao - Intake Attorney

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.

Lauryn Barbosa Findley - Equal Justice Works Fellow

Lauryn received a B.A. in Intercultural Peace & Justice Studies and a minor in History from Holy Names University in 2016 prior to graduating from Santa Clara School of Law in 2020 with a certificate in public interest and social justice, with an emphasis in criminal justice. During her time in law school, she interned as a judicial clerk in Santa Clara County, interned at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, and was a law clerk at the Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender. Lauryn was also a clinical student at NCIP for two years prior to joining the staff as an Equal Justice Works fellow in 2020.

Cynthia Murphy - Office Manager & Paralegal

Cynthia received her B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University. She is a certified Paralegal and commissioned Notary Public. Prior to joining the NCIP team in 2019, she served in corporate and litigation paralegal roles at Infineon Technologies, Cooley LLP and Skjerven Morrill LLP. She also served as Assistant Director of the Santa Clara University High Tech Law program. Cynthia manages the NCIP office and provides paralegal support to the NCIP staff and clinic law students.

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Michele Canny - Communications Associate

Michele Canny graduated Magna Cum Laude from Santa Clara University in 2019 with a BS in Sociology. Before joining NCIP, she worked for her on-campus LGBTQ+ center for two years. In the summer of 2018, she interned in Italy at an immigration center and for the international organization CARITAS. In her last quarter of college, Michele interned for NCIP and is currently serving as their Communications Associate.

Catherine Boyle - Volunteer Attorney

Catherine Marken Boyle graduated cum laude from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law after obtaining her undergraduate degree in Human Biology from Stanford University. Prior to NCIP, she practiced civil municipal litigation for the City of San Jose and general litigation for Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. Catherine also has extensive fundraising and event planning experience gained through her years of volunteering on behalf of non-profits.

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Karen 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.

Anne-Marie Macrae - Volunteer Research Associate

Anne-Marie obtained her law degree from  Oxford University in the UK. She went on to practice civil commercial litigation in London and Hong Kong. After moving with her family to the USA, Anne-Marie helped set up a legal recruitment firm in the Bay Area and also devoted time to various fund raising activities, which, happily, has led her to NCIP.

NCIP Advisory Board

Jim Anderson: Founding Partner, Foundation Capital and Legacy Venture

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

Jo Golub: Partner, Keker, Van Nest & Peters

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

Ellen Kreitzberg: Professor of Law, Santa Clara University