Tricia Bushnell, Executive Director

Tricia Bushnell joined the Midwest Innocence Project in December 2013. Prior to coming to Kansas City, she served as clinical faculty at the Frank J. Remington Center’s Wisconsin Innocence Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison. There she supervised students in the investigation and litigation of innocence cases involving both DNA and non-DNA evidence. She also spearheaded a program to bring social work students into the criminal clinics. She speaks about this and her cases at the annual Innocence Network Conference.

Before joining the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Bushnell was a fellow with the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, where she represented indigent clients sentenced to death, juveniles sentenced to life without parole, and sexual offenders challenging the collateral consequences of their convictions. She has written and filed briefs on behalf of defendants and amicus curiae in both state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Bushnell was previously an associate with the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Los Angeles, where she worked in the white-collar criminal defense and litigation departments.

She earned her Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Fellow. She received a Bachelor of Arts in German and Political Science from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. She currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Innocence Network and as President for the ACLU of Missouri.


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.


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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Arie Foley, Office Manager

Arie joined the Midwest Innocence Project in August 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 Literacy KC, where she was a part of a team 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.

Lindsay Runnels, University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law, University of Missouri School of Law – Columbia

Associate Clinical Professor
Defense and Civil Rights Attorney

Lindsay Runnels teaches Wrongful Convictions and oversees the Innocence Clinic at MU Law and UMKC Law, a joint project with the Midwest Innocence Project.

Prior to joining the faculty at MU Law and UMKC Law, Runnels was an attorney with Morgan Pilate, a criminal and civil rights litigation firm.

She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a J.D. from University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.