California Innocence Project

Innocence Project Staff


  Justin Brooks, Director

Professor Justin Brooks has been the Director of California Innocence Project since its inception in 1999.  Prior to co-founding CIP, Professor Brooks taught at Georgetown University School of Law and Thomas Cooley School of Law.  At both institutions, his teachings focused on criminal law, criminal procedure, and corrections law. 

Over the course of his career he has served as counsel on several high profile criminal cases and has been successful in exonerating many wrongfully convicted clients.  He regularly appears in national news media programs and has been recognized several times by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California.  In 2010, California Lawyer Magazine awarded him the "Lawyer of the Year" award.

Professor Brooks has been very involved in training Latin American lawyers throughout his career.  He founded the only trial skills academy in the country conducted in Spanish and he travels to Latin America training attorneys, judges, and law enforcement agents on trial skills and criminal forensics.  He co-founded RedInocente, an organization devoted to starting and supporting innocence projects throughout Latin America. Professor Brooks has published extensively in the areas of criminal law, clinical education, and habeas litigation.  He is the author of the only legal casebook devoted to the topic of wrongful convictions.


  Jan Stiglitz, Co-Director

Professor Stiglitz originally practiced labor law in New York City.  He has published on labor and employment law issues in the construction and sports industries. He continues to work in the labor and employment law area as an arbitrator.  Professor Stiglitz also has a scholarly and practical interest in appellate advocacy.  He has edited and helped write the last five editions of California Appellate Practice Manual and has chaired California's Appellate Advisory Commission.  His work as appointed counsel in more than 100 criminal appeals led to his current focus - the California Innocence Project, which Professor Stiglitz helped create.  He has also made several appearances in the local and national media to speak about innocence or criminal law-related issues.   In 2010, he was named one of San Diego's "50 People to Watch."


  Kimberly Hernandez, Program Manager

With over 16 years experience in production management, Kimberly Hernandez has been the program manager for the California Innocence Project since its inception in 1999.  She is responsible for case intake and the day-to-day operations of CIP, including oversight of project investigations.  For program inquiries, she can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by telephone at 619. 515.1526.


    Alex Simpson, Associate Director

Alex Simpson received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received both his J.D. in and his LL.M. in Federal Criminal Law from California Western School of Law.  He currently oversees all active cases currently in litigation on behalf of the Project.   Simpson was named as a Top Attorney in 2009 by the San Diego Daily Transcript and received the Post-conviction Lawyer of the Year (Joint Award) from the Board of Directors of the Criminal Defense Bar Association of San Diego in 2006.  He has co-authored two law review articles "Find the Cost of Freedom: The Struggle to Compensate the Innocent for Wrongful Incarceration and the Strange Legal Odyssey of Timothy Atkins," 49 San Diego Law Review 3 (2012), and "Blood Sugar Sex Magik: A Review of Postconviction DNA Testing Statutes and Legislative Recommendations," 59 Drake Law Review 799 (2011).   Simpson was also a panelist at the 2011 Innocence Network Conference, addressing the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and its application to state inmates seeking relief in federal courts.


Alissa Bjerkhoel, Staff Attorney

Alissa Bjerkhoel received her B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her J.D. from California Western School of Law.  She currently holds the position of Supervising Attorney at the California Innocence Project where, in addition to her own case load, she supervises six law students and over 100 cases each year.  Bjerkhoel has served as counsel on numerous criminal cases.  Bjerkhoel's media appearances include:  Aid for Wrongfully Accused (San Diego News Channel 6, February 22, 2010); The California Innocence Project And The Freedom Of Reggie Cole (KPBS, April 8, 2010); Wrongly Convicted L.A. Man Is Released From Prison (KUSI Morning News, May 16, 2010); and, True Crime Stories; Guy Miles and the California Innocence Project (Fox 11 News, June 2012).  Bjerkhoel has received the Joe & Denise Walsh Excellence in Advocacy Award (2006), Post-Conviction Lawyer of the Year from the Criminal Defense Bar Association of San Diego (2006, joint award), the Hugh P. Chindlund Law School Service Award (2008), the Wiley W. Manuel Award (2007), the Adrianne Baker Fellowship (2010), and was most-recently recognized by the San Diego Daily Transcript as a 2011 Young Attorney Finalist (2011).


  Marco Macklis, Attorney

Marco Macklis obtained his law degree from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Mexico. He joined his family-owned criminal defense firm in which he defended many cases in all stages of state and federal criminal procedure. He also raised constitutional issues before the Mexican Supreme Court. He received his LL.M. in Comparative Law from California Western School of Law and stayed to become a staff member for the California Innocence Project.  Macklis is also the coordinator for the Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy’s Trial Skills Academy to train attorneys from Latin American whose countries are in the process of transitioning to the accusatorial system. Mr. Macklis manages ACCESO Capacitación and RED Inocente web pages and all oral advocacy training programs in Spanish at California Western School of Law. 

Para ayuda en español póngase en contacto con M. Macklis 

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    Telephone: (619) 515-1380|


  Audrey McGinn, Staff Attorney

Audrey attended the University of Washington and received her bachelor's degree in International Studies, Spanish, and Portuguese.  She received her J.D. from California Western School of Law, where she was a student in the Calfornia Innocence Project Clinic.  Audrey has worked at the California Innocence Project for almost five years and remains passionate about helping the wrongfully convicted in California's prisons.  Audrey is fluent in Spanish and also spearheaded the first Latin American Innocence Project in Chile.  She has also served as adjunct faculty at trial skills academies for lawyers from Latin America. 


  Michael SemanchikMichael Semanchik, Staff Attorney

Michael attended Duquesne University where he graduated cum laude from the A.J. Palumbo School of Business with a concentration in Economics and Finance. Michael graduated cum laude from California Western School of Law where he was student in the California Innocence Project.  After passing the California State Bar, Mike first worked as an investigator for CIP and later became a staff attorney.  


Raquel Cohen Raquel Cohen, Staff Attorney
Raquel received her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Raquel graduated from California Western School of Law and was a student in the California Innocence Project Clinic.  Having worked with CIP since 2007, Raquel focuses on claims of innocence involving DNA evidence.
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