Mission & Clinic

about

Mission

The criminal justice system is not perfect. Innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes they did not commit. When that occurs, the consequences for the lives of the wrongfully convicted and their families are truly devastating. By investigating and petitioning courts to reverse wrongful convictions, our Exoneration Project is dedicated to restoring justice.

Beyond assisting our clients with their claims of actual innocence in court, we also strive to shed light on the problems in the criminal legal system that allow innocent people to be convicted of crimes they did not commit by advocating for greater accountability in the justice system. We work with community-minded organizations to advocate for our exonerees so that they are are able to re-enter society with the support they need to succeed.

Clinic

In addition to their own private pro bono practice representing our clients, several of the Exoneration Project attorney’s also serve as Lecturers in Law at the University of Chicago Law School, where they run a free legal clinic with the support and contributions of current law students. By dedicating our time and resources to a clinical program, we believe that we are able to provide the most rigorous representation of our clients possible, while also providing up-and-coming attorneys exposure in this crucial area of legal work.

Students working in our project assist in every aspect of representation, including selecting cases, investigating and developing evidence, as well as in-court litigation of post-conviction petitions, petitions for DNA testing, and federal habeas petitions.

Through participation in our project, students explore issues of error and inequality in the criminal justice system, including police and prosecutorial misconduct, the use of faulty scientific evidence, coerced confessions, unreliable eyewitness testimony, and ineffective assistance of counsel.


Staff

Russell Ainsworth, Attorney

Russell Ainsworth is a partner at the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy. Russell graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2002, magna cum laude. Following law school, he spent one year clerking for Judge Paul Lundsten of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. He joined Loevy & Loevy in the Fall of 2003 where he became a founding member of the Exoneration Project.

Rebekah Ausbrook, Senior Paralegal

Rebekah Ausbrook joined the Exoneration Project as a Litigation Specialist in March 2019. Prior to joining the EP, she worked as an Americorps member with City Year Chicago, an educational non-profit that supports students in under-resourced schools across the city. Rebekah graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Public Policy in 2016.

Rudy Bennett, Client Resource Coordinator

Rudy received his B.A. in Psychology from Benedictine University in 2005 and is a 2022 candidate for a MSW from Simmons University. Rudy came to the EP in July of 2019. Prior to coming to the EP, Rudy worked in the field of child welfare for over 10 years. Rudy is compassionate and empathetic to the needs of others. Rudy is a great advocate and is very skilled with client rapport. When he is not helping others, Rudy loves to spend time with family.

Teddy Gonzales, Paralegal

Teddy Gonzales (she/they) graduated from Augustana College in 2020 with a degree in Environmental Studies and Multimedia Journalism/Mass Communications. Before joining the Exoneration Project, they helped self-represented litigants access the courts as a JusticeCorps member at the Daley Center. She spends her free time fighting opponents in Muay Thai, fighting mosquitoes during hikes through bear country, and fighting for environmental justice in her home country of the Philippines.

Gayle Horn, Attorney

Gayle Horn is a partner at the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, and a founding member of the Exoneration Project. Gayle graduated magna cum laude from New York University Law School in 2004. Following law school, Gayle spent one year as a law clerk to the Honorable Milton I. Shadur in the Northern District of Illinois before joining Loevy & Loevy.

Paul A. Jones II

Paul Jones is a Staff Attorney Fellow at the Exoneration Project. He received his undergraduate degree in Psychology from DePaul University in 2015 and his law degree from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in 2020. While in law school, he worked as a clinical student in the Center for Wrongful Convictions and the MacArthur Justice Center, where he focused on bail reform and police accountability. Paul also served as an Articles Review Board Member on the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology and in May 2020, he received The Northwestern Law School Leadership Award for the graduating class of 2020, which is given to the student who made the greatest contribution in leadership to the Northwestern community during their time at the law school. He currently serves as Co-Mentorship Chair on the Executive Board of the New Leaders Council Chicago Chapter and serves as a Community Liaison Director on the ACLU’s Next Generation Society Executive Board.

Karl Leonard, Lecturer in Law

Karl Leonard graduated from The University of Chicago Law School in 2009 where he participated in the Exoneration Project clinic as a law student. After law school, Karl was an associate at Winston & Strawn, where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation at both the trial and appellate levels, intellectual property disputes, and criminal defense. In addition, Karl continued to partner extensively with the Exoneration Project to assist wrongfully convicted clients. In 2016, Karl joined the Exoneration Project as a staff attorney.

Debra Loevy, Attorney

Debra Loevy graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School in 1995. After law school Debra spent years addressing poverty law issues at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and at Vermont Legal Aid. Debra also spent several years focusing on criminal defense appeals at the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender before joining Loevy & Loevy and the Exoneration Project in 2007.

Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, Attorney

Lauren Myerscough-Mueller joined the Exoneration Project as an attorney in May 2019. Lauren came to the EP with over three years of experience representing the wrongfully convicted at the Illinois Innocence Project. Prior to her innocence work, Lauren practiced as a criminal defense attorney in the Chicago area, both as a private attorney and a public defender. She graduated from the Northwestern University School of Law, where she participated in several clinics and interned for the Cook County Public Defender Homicide Task Force for two years.

Karen A. Newirth, Attorney

Karen A. Newirth is counsel with the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy and the director of the Exoneration Project's Mass Exoneration Initiative, which identifies and investigates sources of repeated wrongful conviction in order to exonerate those wrongly convicted. Prior to joining the Exoneration Project, Karen was a founding member of the Innocence Project’s strategic litigation department, where, for eight years, she litigated for law reform in the areas of eyewitness identification and confessions and interrogations. Previously, Karen was a criminal defense attorney in New York City, representing individuals in all stages of state and federal investigations and prosecutions, and served as a law clerk for the Honorable Whitman Knapp of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She is a 2002 graduate of NYU School of Law and a 1996 graduate of Brown University.

David B. Owens, Attorney

David B. Owens is a partner at the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy. David received his J.D. and an M.A. in Philosophy from Stanford University in 2010. After law school, David clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the Honorable Myron H. Thompson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery, Alabama. David returned to Chicago and joined the Exoneration Project in 2012.

Elliot Slosar, Attorney

Elliot Slosar joined the Exoneration Project in the spring of 2008, working full-time as an in-house investigator while pursuing his law degree. After graduating from college, Elliot published a study on the Illinois Capital Litigation Trust Fund and was named to the executive boards of Students Against the Death Penalty (SADP) and the Abolition in Illinois Movement (AIM). Prior to working with the EP, Elliot worked for the Office of the State Appellate Defender in the Death Penalty Trial Assistance Unit. He graduated from DePaul University College of Law in 2013.

Josh Tepfer, Attorney

Josh Tepfer is a partner at the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy. Josh joined the Exoneration Project as an attorney in May 2015. Josh has been representing the criminally accused for over a decade, first as an attorney with the Chicago Office of the State Appellate Defender and then as an Assistant Clinical Professor with Northwestern University School of Law, where he served seven years as the Project Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. Josh graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004.

Elizabeth Wang, Attorney

Liz Wang is a partner at the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy and works from its Boulder, Colorado office. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 2005, and joined the Exoneration Project in the fall of 2008. Prior to joining the EP, Liz served as a law clerk for the Honorable Harry D. Leinenweber on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and as a law clerk for the Honorable Betty B. Fletcher on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to her clerkships, she was a Legal Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project.