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The Wrongful Conviction Division of the Special Defense Unit in the Office of the State Public Defender (WCD) was created in October 2015 and is dedicated to the release of indigent Iowa inmates who are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The Wrongful Conviction Division is focused on post-conviction litigation for inmates claiming factual innocence.

Recognizing a shared interest in exonerating Iowa residents convicted of crimes they did not commit, WCD, the Innocence Project of Iowa (IPI), and the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) have joined together to further promote justice and secure exonerations within Iowa. Together, these organizations will identify, investigate, and litigate cases of individuals who are claiming factual innocence of the crimes for which they were convicted.

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.



All applications for assistance should be directly sent to the Midwest Innocence Project at:

The Midwest Innocence Project
3619 Broadway Blvd., Suite 2
Kansas City, MO 64111

More information can be found at spd.iowa.gov/.