SEATTLE -- UW Law Associate Professor and Director of the Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) Jacqueline McMurtrie was awarded with the 2012 Outstanding Public Service Award for the University of Washington’s 42nd Annual Awards of Excellence. McMurtrie is being recognized for her work in the Innocence Project and the Washington State Bar Association's Council on Public Defense.
McMurtrie said it is a tremendous honor to receive the award.
“I am humbled to be included with the list of previous distinguished award winners,” she said. “The award also represents a recognition of the work done by a myriad variety of volunteers with the Innocence Project Northwest.”
Initiated in 1980, the Outstanding Public Service Award recognizes UW faculty and staff members who exhibit exemplary contributions to the common good through public service. The award selection committee looks for individuals whose efforts have improved the quality of people's lives nationally or internationally.
UW Law Professor Anita Ramasastry received the award in 2002 and UW Law Professor Roy Prosterman in 1990.
Nominations are made by UW faculty, staff and members of outside organizations that have benefited from the nominee’s public service. McMurtrie was nominated by Dean Kellye Testy, Assistant Dean Michele Storms and Marc Boman, a partner at Perkins Coie and Chair of the on the Washington State Bar Association's Council on Public Defense. McMurtrie is Vice-Chair of the committee.
“Over the past decade, Professor McMurtrie has been a tireless advocate in multiple forums for making systemic changes to our state’s criminal justice system in order to prevent wrongful convictions,” wrote Dean Kellye Testy in her recommendation letter for McMurtrie.
In Boman’s recommendation letter, he explained that as Washington's fiscal crisis deepened, McMurtrie played a major role in “designing, organizing, moderating and implementing ‘Criminal Justice Summit’ meetings at which leaders from Washington's criminal justice system met to develop proposals.” Boman also said McMurtrie aided in developing a communications and advocacy plan for addressing public defense needs in the face of budget cuts.
McMurtrie’s public service is also exemplified as the co-founder of the Innocence Project Northwest. In 1997, she created the project to reverse wrongful convictions and exonerate wrongly accused individuals. It has since expanded to include policy initiatives to redress wrongful convictions. In addition, she is a founding member of the Innocence Network and serves on its Board of Directors. McMurtrie is also the co-chair of the Innocence Network Committee on Amicus Policies.
“[IPNW is an] amazing program that has now directly affected the lives of so many, satisfying that ongoing thirst for public service and equal justice that is at the center of who she is,” Storms wrote.
McMurtrie said her career as a public service lawyer has been extremely rewarding.
“I've appreciated the opportunity to represent people who would not otherwise have had access to justice,” she said. “The highlights of my professional career are the exonerations of our clients, James Anderson, Ted Bradford, Larry Davis and Alan Northrop who served a combined total of 47 years in Washington corrections institutions for crimes they did not commit. There is no greater injustice than convicting an innocent person. There is no greater professional satisfaction than obtaining that person's freedom.”
She also said she hopes the award will help raise public awareness about the Innocence Project Northwest, wrongful convictions and the need for reform in the criminal justice system.
McMurtrie will be presented with the award at the University's annual Recognition Ceremony in June 7 in the Meany Hall Auditorium.