MIP Staff


Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Executive Director

Tricia Rojo Bushnell is the Executive Director of the Midwest Innocence Project, which works to free innocent people convicted of crimes they did not commit. She is responsible for managing all aspects of MIP and serves as its lead attorney, representing clients in court and in clemency proceedings. Prior to joining MIP, she was an assistant clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, a fellow with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, and an associate at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Los Angeles. A California native, Tricia is the first in her family to go to college, receiving her B.A. from Bucknell University and her J.D. from NYU School of Law. She has served as the president of the ACLU of Missouri and on the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Diverse Business Committee. Currently, she is the president of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of 68 innocence organizations around the country and the world.


Rachel Wester, Managing Attorney, Nebraska

Rachel Wester returned home to Missouri and joined the Midwest Innocence Project in January 2015 after earning her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she interned with the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center and served as a research assistant for Professor Brandon Garrett.

She received her undergraduate degree from Columbia College in 2010, with majors in Speech Communication and Political Science and a minor in Music. Rachel then spent a year working full-time as an Assistant Events Coordinator and coaching the Columbia College Mock Trial team.


Emily Danker-Feldman, Supervising Attorney

Emily Danker-Feldman joined the Midwest Innocence Project in May 2020. Emily previously worked as an attorney at Rosenblum, Schwartz & Fry with a focus on state appeals and post-conviction cases and federal motions, sentencing and appellate practice, primarily in Missouri. Prior to joining the firm, she was an assistant public defender in the appellate division of the Missouri State Public Defender and a law clerk to the Honorable Nannette A. Baker, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Emily received her B.A. in Economics and English from Georgetown University in 2007, and obtained a dual degree in law and social work from Washington University in 2013.


Summer Farrar, Project Manager

Summer Farrar is the former Case Coordinator for the Kansas City Police Crime Lab where she acted as the liaison between the Lab, Kansas City Police Department’s Homicide Unit, and the prosecutor’s office.  Her responsibilities covered case-related communication between stakeholders regarding investigative priorities and tracking Laboratory turnaround times on assigned homicide investigations.

Before signing on with the police department, Summer was the Assistant Director at Grand Arts, where she was part of a team that produced ambitious contemporary art projects and cultural events in Kansas City.

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Leigh Ann Carroll, Paralegal

Leigh Ann Carroll joined the Midwest Innocence Project in February, 2018 after completing an internship with MIP and working on a death penalty case for the Federal Public Defender’s Office, Missouri Western Division, Capital Habeas Unit.

Prior to pursuing a paralegal career, Leigh Ann worked as a Staff Chemical Engineer at Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City, Missouri where she aided companies in complying with environmental regulations, wrote operational air permits, and designed air pollution control systems.  After taking time off to raise her children, Leigh Ann returned to college to pursue her dream of working in the legal field.  She is passionate about helping those wrongfully convicted prove their innocence.

She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering from Kansas State University and her Paralegal Certificate from Johnson County Community College where she was a Paralegal Advisory Board Student Representative.  She is a member of Heartland Paralegal Association.

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Blair Johnson, Staff Investigator

Blair Johnson joined the Midwest Innocence Project in October, 2018, having worked closely with MIP since 2016 as both an investigator and volunteer. Prior to joining the MIP staff, Blair worked as a private investigator licensed in Missouri and Iowa. During this time, she also investigated cases involving microscopic hair comparison for the Iowa State Public Defender’s Wrongful Conviction Division.

Prior to pursuing a career in investigation, Blair worked as a project manager for Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin, where she worked with operational and clinical stakeholders to implement electronic health record systems in healthcare organizations across the country. While in this position, Blair served as a process improvement lead for the company, as well as received the “Capstone Award” for the most outstanding contributions on a project.

Blair graduated summa cum laude from Kansas State University in 2012, with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Philosophy.

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Brody Sabor, Intake Analyst

Brody is a May 2020 graduate of the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law. He began volunteering part-time for the Midwest Innocence Project in January 2018 during his first year of law school, assisting the legal team with investigation and litigation in active cases. He remained on staff as a part-time Law Clerk until taking on the new role of Intake Analyst after his graduation.

Brody earned a B.A. in History and Criminal Justice/Criminology from the University of Missouri – Kansas City in May 2016.

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Robert Hansen, Volunteer Attorney

Robert joined the Midwest Innocence Project as a volunteer attorney in September 2020.

Originally from Atchison, Kansas, Robert is a 2020 cum laude graduate of the Harvard Law School and a 2016 summa cum laude graduate of the George Washington University, B.A. in Political Communication. He assists the MIP legal team with active cases.

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Zachary Carpenter, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP Fellow

Zachary Carpenter joined the Midwest Innocence Project in January of 2021 as a Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP Fellow, where he focuses his work in the St. Louis region. Before joining MIP, Zachary worked at the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was trained in the holistic advocacy model of public defense and worked as a staff attorney representing clients in misdemeanor and felony cases from their first appearance to trial. Zachary received an A.B. in Government from Harvard University in 2008, and received a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2011.

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Courtney Ellis, Social Work Intern

Courtney works as a social worker with both freed and incarcerated clients and area exonerees, helping them to transition to life outside prison after wrongful incarceration. Courtney joined the Midwest Innocence Project in August 2020.

Prior to working with MIP, she worked in many social service roles. Courtney held a position at Larned State Hospital as a Human Service Assistant. In this role, she provided case management and support services. Courtney also held a position as a Recovery Worker at High Plains Mental Health Center located in Hays, KS.  She obtained beneficial skills from these positions such as crisis intervention and client advocacy; which include but are not limited to, psychosocial education, rehabilitative support with substance use, and collaboration with client treatment team and support system. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Fort Hays State University and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Clinical Social Work.

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Ricky Kidd, Community Engagement Manager

After surviving 23 years of being wrongfully convicted Ricky Kidd chose to turn his negative into a positive. Ricky Kidd is now a justice advocate, speaker, playwright & community activist who is on a mission to create positive change inside & outside our criminal justice system

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Arie Cotta, Operations & Development Associate

Arie joined the Midwest Innocence Project in September 2018.

Prior to working with MIP, they managed a small startup company in Wisconsin and did project management for a marketing software company in downtown Kansas City.

They graduated with a B.F.A from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2011.

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Tish Sjuts, Development Associate

Tish joined the Midwest Innocence Project in March 2019.

She graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City in December 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Rhetoric.

Before signing on with MIP, Tish was the Development and Communications Coordinator at a nonprofit committed to addressing adult literacy needs in Kansas City.

                            Affiliated Partner Staff

Erica Nichols Cook, Wrongful Convictions Division of the Iowa State Public Defender


Erica Nichols Cook is the director of the Wrongful Convictions Division. Erica joined the Wrongful Conviction Division of the Iowa State Public Defender in December 2016.

Prior to coming to Des Moines, Iowa, she was an assistant appellate defender in Springfield, Illinois. She also served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Southern Illinois University, teaching about wrongful convictions and supervising the externship program with the Illinois Innocence Project.

Erica was previously a staff attorney with the Illinois Innocence Project where she investigated and litigated non-DNA cases and supervised both undergraduate and law students. Prior to her time with the Illinois Innocence Project, Erica was an Assistant Cook County Public Defender in Chicago.

She earned her Juris Doctorate Degree from Drake Law School, where she was a Public Service Scholar and Ferguson Gold Award recipient. She received her Bachelor’s in Arts Degree from the University of Illinois Springfield.

Jean Phillips, University of Kansas School of Law

Director, Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies
Clinical Professor of Law

Jean Phillips joined KU Law in 1996 as a supervising attorney in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies, and became director in 1999. She served as director of clinical programs from 2003-2005. She received the Frederick J. Moreau award in 2003. The award is given annually to a faculty member who, in the eyes of law students, has been particularly helpful in advising and counseling students.

Prior to joining the faculty, she clerked for the Hon. Robert J. Lewis of the Kansas Court of Appeals. Phillips then joined the Appellate Defender Office. During her four years as an assistant appellate defender, she spent two years working at the Defender Project assisting students in the preparation of appellate briefs.

She received a Bachelor’s in Arts Degree from Augustana College in 1987 and her law degree from KU in 1990.

Alice Craig, University of Kansas School of Law

Attorney, Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies
Instructor, Trial Advocacy and Mock Trial

Alice Craig joined KU Law in April 2004 as an attorney in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies. The Project represents state and federal prisoners in appellate and post-conviction litigation in state and federal courts. As an attorney in the Project, Craig supervises students in their casework and co-teaches the classroom component of the clinic.

Prior to joining the faculty, Craig worked for the Appellate Defender Office for several years before moving to litigation. She served as a trial attorney for the 10th Judicial District Public Defender, Jenab & Kuchar LLC, and the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit. She received a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Kansas in a 1990 and her law degree from KU in 1995.