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Join Washington Innocence Project (WashIP) for a community discussion about the role and importance of prosecutors in the criminal legal system. This event will include a panel of speakers who will give short presentations followed by a Q&A based on questions submitted by attendees.
This event will include a series of speakers that will also participate in a Q&A panel of pre-received questions. Registration is only necessary if you are attending in person. When you register for the event we urge you to submit your questions to the panel.
While WashIP is still finalizing the list of participants, current committed participants include:
Michelle Mbekeani is the Senior Legal & Policy Advisor for Justice Reform in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Prior to that, Michelle was a Staff Attorney at the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law where she focused on police reform, voting rights, and criminal justice reform. Last year during the legislative session, Michelle led the lobbying efforts while working in coalition with the Innocence Project, the Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, and the Illinois Innocence Project. Michelle earned her B.A. from Stony Brook University in German Language and Literature, Political Science, and Middle Eastern Studies. She received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.
Felicia Hudson started her work in law and advocacy at Highline College where she received her Paralegal degree and served as the Chair of The Student Legislative Action Committee, the Student Task Force, and interned at a Federal Way criminal defense firm and at the Housing Justice Project. She is currently the program coordinator for the Federal Way Black Collective and facilitates their Facebook show Thursday Thoughts as and other community programs. She is leading the charge for the Federal Way Black Collective on upcoming forums around prosecutor and judicial races.
Representative Tarra Simmons is an American politician, lawyer, and civil rights activist for criminal justice reform. In 2011 Simmons was sentenced to 30 months in prison for theft and drug crimes. In 2017, she graduated from Seattle University School of Law with honors. After law school, she was not allowed to sit for the Washington State bar exam due to her status as a former convicted felon, thus she challenged the Washington State Bar Association rules in the Washington State Supreme Court and won with the court unanimously ruling in her favor. She was later sworn in as an attorney in the State of Washington on June 16, 2018. Simmons is the executive director of a nonprofit focused on assisting those that are formerly incarcerated, known as the Civil Survival Project.
Stephan Thomas studied at Seattle University School of Law. In 2010, he worked as a Rule 9 intern at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The next year he became a full-time deputy and went on to spend six years as a trial attorney, doing rotations in “General Felonies, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault.” Satterberg eventually promoted Thomas to Director of Community Justice Initiatives for King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office — a role which he kept until 2019. Ultimately, he left the office after he felt like it wasn’t receptive to the changes he wanted to make. Thomas put in a bid for the 2022 Prosecutor race as the most progressive candidate but recently dropped out due to family matters.
Anita Khandelwal is the director of the King County Department of Public Defense, which annually represents more than 15,000 clients who have been charged with a crime or stand to lose another liberty interest and cannot afford an attorney. Anita was appointed to the position by the County Executive in 2018, managing a department of more than 400 during the many challenges brought on by a global pandemic that profoundly affected the criminal legal system. She has navigated those challenges with a keen eye on the rights of DPD’s clients and the health and safety of both clients and staff and has been a strong voice for ensuring COVID-inspired system changes did not further harm clients. Under Anita’s leadership, the department has also partnered with community-based organizations to reduce the reach of a system that disproportionately harms poor, marginalized, and BIPOC communities: The department played a key role in the passage of a law – first in Seattle and King County and later statewide – that ensures youth can access counsel prior to a custodial interrogation or search; led statewide efforts to fundamentally transform dependency law in the state; successfully argued a case before the State Supreme Court that strengthened the county’s inquest system, and handled countless post-conviction cases, helping to reduce egregiously long sentences.
Sean Goode is a speaker, facilitator, writer, podcast host, executive coach, and nonprofit leader who is driven by his mantra, “possibilities over problems,” which was born out of his lived experience growing up in what was overwhelmingly challenging circumstances. Through his stewardship of the now nationally recognized nonprofit, CHOOSE 180, he has worked to decriminalize youthful behavior and transform the very systems that have historically caused harm to marginalized communities. Prior to leading this 2021 City of Seattle Human Rights award-winning organization he served as a chaplain in juvenile detention, championed gang and group intervention efforts, and worked to provide education and employment opportunities for youth in at-risk communities.
David Heppard is the executive director of the Freedom Project. He knows first-hand the impacts of mass incarceration after being incarcerated at 16 years old with a de facto life sentence. Due to his juvenile status when he was convicted, and the passage of the 5064 bill, he was released after 24 years of confinement. He now works toward developing partnerships with other community providers whose mission is in alignment with making advancements in criminal justice and prison reform. He is also a Credible Messenger, which is a national initiative of adult men and women from similar backgrounds who equip young people with the tools to heal their lives and provide them with a living example of hope and transformation.
Presented by the Washington Innocence Project.