Yvonne Carter was one of the first to join the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Since 2009, she has coordinated all of the office functions. Yvonne also coordinates intake and overseeing volunteers conducting initial reviews of cases. Before joining the Project, Yvonne worked as a Legal Secretary, first for a bankruptcy attorney, and later at the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the Community College of Philadelphia (AA) in Paralegal Studies.
As the Reentry Social Worker, Blanca is primarily responsible for addressing the reentry needs of clients who have been exonerated and are reentering back into their communities. This includes, but is not limited to, helping clients access benefits, connecting clients to mental health support, conducting weekly check-ins with clients, assisting clients to identify goals, and connecting clients to local resources. She also co-facilitates the Transition to Innocence exoneree support group.
Prior to joining the Project, Blanca was a Child Advocate Social Worker providing case management and advocacy services to youth who have open cases in dependency and delinquent court. She also served on a policy project, where she was part of a research team that developed best practices for schools and juvenile justice professionals on how to best serve young people reentering into the community from residential placements. Additionally, she was one of the eight members of her prior agency’s first established Racial Justice and Social Equity Committee where they guided the agency towards anti-racist practices in the child welfare system, both internally and externally.
Blanca received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine in Criminology, Law and Society in 2011. She completed her master’s degrees in both Social Work and Social Policy in 2015 from the University of Pennsylvania. While obtaining her master's degrees, Blanca gained diverse volunteer and internship experience at Community Legal Services, Nationalities Services Center, Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project, Women Organized Against Rape, and the District Attorney’s Office conducting research and working directly with marginalized populations including victims and survivors of trauma and gender-based violence, parents with court-involved children, youth who have been incarcerated, and immigrants and refugees.
Liz currently runs our Pittsburgh Office. Before joining us, she worked for a small non-profit organization that served at-risk children and families. As Director of Placement Services, she managed 10 direct-care caseworkers and 36 foster families. While working full-time, Liz attended law school in the evenings to earn her J.D. in 2010. Liz is a 2004 University of Pittsburgh (B.A.) and Duquesne University School of Law (J.D.) graduate. After law school, the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel recruited Liz to develop new programs to ensure quality legal representation for court-involved youth.
Here, she collaborated with community youth agencies, county government agencies, and court officials in developing a program model and mission. She was responsible for all policies, procedures, staff recruitment, and identifying and obtaining funding for the programs. As a result, the juvenile delinquency and juvenile dependency divisions of the Office of Conflict Counsel launched in the spring of 2011. Both programs have received praise and continue to grow and expand. After passing the Pennsylvania bar exam, Liz joined the Office of Conflict Counsel’s adult trial unit where she represented adult criminal clients in cases varying cases. Most recently, Liz gained invaluable federal criminal trial experience through her work as a Research and Writing Attorney and Assistant Federal Defender for the Federal Defender’s Office in the District of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As Staff Investigator, Ashley works with Staff Attorneys to determine which cases are appropriate for investigation. She creates investigative plans and is responsible for locating and interviewing witnesses, family members, prior counsel, and anyone else relevant to a case. Ashley comes to the Project with four years of investigative experience. She started as an investigative intern at the Public Defender Service in Washington, DC, and worked as a Staff Investigator for the Neighborhood Defender Services in Detroit, Michigan. Ashley obtained her bachelor's degree from Towson University, majoring in Sociology-Anthropology with a Criminal Justice Concentration.
Amelia manages the Project’s flawed forensic science and DNA testing caseload. She litigates pre- and post-trial flawed forensic science, and DNA testing cases. She also spearheads the Project’s work in forensic science reform. Amelia has unique experience in this area. Out of law school, Amelia served as Post-Conviction Counsel at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers where she coordinated the FBI/DOJ Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review, the largest post-conviction review of flawed forensic evidence to date. Prior to joining the Project in 2018, Amelia was an Assistant Public Defender in the Montgomery County office of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. As a Public Defender Amelia routinely challenged the admissibility and use of unreliable or unvalidated forensic sciences at trial.
Amelia graduated cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2015. She is a member of the Order of the Coif and was the Symposium Editor of the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society. During law school Amelia was a student attorney in the Wisconsin Innocence Project clinic, where she helped overturn the conviction of a man serving a life sentence for first degree homicide on the basis of a flawed complex DNA mixture analysis interpretation. She was also an intern in the Strategic Litigation Department of the Innocence Project.
Jessica assists in all Development and Communications efforts at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts and received her BA in Theatre Arts and Classics from the College of Charleston Honors College. Jessica has worked in the Development and Communications departments of several non-profit arts organizations, such as the League of Professional Theatre Women, where she was an assistant grant writer. She spent two years teaching at the University of the Arts before moving to her role with the Project full time. Jessica is currently a part-time evening student at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she expects to earn her JD by May 2024.
Sara joined the PA Innocence Project as Director of Development in 2022. With the development and communications team, she leads fundraising and resource development efforts in support of the work of the Project. Sara comes to this role with background in higher education and non-profit development. Before joining the Project, she served as an Assistant Director with advancement and extension units at Temple and Rutgers Universities. Sara led a team at Rutgers which designed strategies to help justice-involved and out-of-school youth and their families thrive, and to re-think how we prepare and support professionals working across youth-serving systems. Prior to that work, she held development roles with Mercy Learning Center and Person-to-Person, long-standing non-profit organizations with extensive reach serving vulnerable populations in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Throughout her career, Sara has exercised a passion for social justice and advocacy for people not well served by our traditional systems of education and justice. A graduate of Douglass College at Rutgers University and a lifelong learner, Sara is now completing graduate coursework in Strategic Communications and Cross-Cultural Leadership with Temple University.
Mae assists in Development efforts at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Before joining the team in February of 2022, Mae held the position of Leasing Coordinator at the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Through her work at PHA, she assisted hundreds of Philadelphians in their pursuit of affordable housing. Before that, Mae held the position of Supply Chain Management Intern at PHA. Through this opportunity, she hosted the Doing Business with PHA presentation in June of 2019. As an intern, she honed her skills in detail-oriented work and communication with stakeholders. Mae is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Corporate Communication from Pennsylvania State University while minoring in Business.
As the Intake Attorney, Clay manages the Project's case intake/screening process and supervises law student interns and pro bono lawyers engaged in reviewing cases submitted by incarcerated Pennsylvanians. Clay joined after volunteering with the Project and other Philadelphia based social justice organizations.
Before joining the Project, Clay practiced law in New York at two civil defense firms and served on multiple non-profit boards. Clay worked with Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady, beginning with its founding in 2017 through 2020, practicing insurance coverage and commercial defense. From 2011 through 2017, he was an associate with Goldberg Segalla, representing multi-national corporations. Clay has multiple publications in various treatises, and Super Lawyers has consistently named him a Rising Star in Civil Defense.
Clay received his J.D., summa cum laude, from the University of Buffalo Law School in 2011 and his bachelor's degree from SUNY Geneseo in 2008. During law school, Clay worked with a Veteran's Treatment Court and clerked with a criminal defense firm. He served on boards for volunteer lawyers and homeless shelters throughout his legal career.