Leah Gonzales, Esq.
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Leah Gonzales serves as the Director and and Treasurer of the Denver Innocence Project and also is a member of the Board of Directors. Leah grew up in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University with two degrees in Political Science and Social Work and a minor in Spanish. After college and before starting law school, Ms. Gonzales backpacked through South America and gained a new perspective and appreciation for social justice. Ms. Gonzales went to California Western School of Law in San Diego. During her time there, Ms. Gonzales was the Lieutenant Governor of Public Interest to the Ninth Circuit of the American Bar Association, President of Public Interest Law Foundation, Treasurer of the Student Bar Association and Student Animal Defense Law Foundation, and a member of La Raza Law Student Association and Pro Bono Honor’s Society.
During law school, Ms. Gonzales had several invaluable internships and practical experience. She interned with Casa Cornelia Law Center, helping victims of domestic violence and unaccompanied minors obtain visas. Ms. Gonzales interned at the Office of the Alternate Public Defender where she helped the accused retain their constitutional rights and obtain fair sentences for defendants. She also interned with a downtown San Diego criminal defense law firm, where she was able to gain vital knowledge and experience about the best techniques and services to protect the accused’s rights. Most importantly, Ms. Gonzales was a clinical student with the California Innocence Project. Through her work with the California Innocence Project, Ms. Gonzales was able to work on clemency petitions, writs of habeas corpus, and other post-conviction legal work. Ms. Gonzales developed a passion for this work, which was seen through the honor of receiving the 2015 Walsh Advocacy Award. Once her obligation as a clinical student ended, Ms. Gonzales continued to work with the California Innocence Project by preparing a petition for the United Nations on behalf of the first Latina on death row in Illinois. Ms. Gonzales continues to work on this case and find justice for this woman.
After taking the July 2016 California bar exam, Ms. Gonzales worked part-time for a San Diego civil practitioner, and externed for the Honorable Karen S. Crawford of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. Overall, Ms. Gonzales’s accomplishments earned her various awards from prestigious San Diego legal organizations, including the San Diego Lawyer’s Club, San Diego La Raza Lawyer’s Association, Josi Dixon Public Interest Foundation Grant, Equal Justice Works Grant, and the Alec L. Cory Scholarship for Pro Bono Service.
Ms. Gonzales recently returned to the Denver-area and is looking forward to help launch the Denver Innocence Project, and provide justice to those in Colorado who are wrongfully convicted. She currently retains a private practice out of San Diego and works on immigration cases. When she is not working, Ms. Gonzales enjoys karaoke night, paddle boarding, the Denver Broncos, and her dog Ada.
Leslie Pugh, Esq.
Leslie serves as Vice President and Secretary of the Denver Innocence Project and also is a member of the Board of Directors. Leslie became an attorney because of her strong passion in advocating for civil rights and liberties, and for the abused, neglected, and those cast aside by society. Leslie’s has a strong background in immigration law and has represented clients before USCIS and the Immigration Court fighting for clients that are being persecuted in their home country, unaccompanied child arrivals that have been abandoned by their biological parents, and victims of violence. She also has experience representing clients in criminal proceedings .
Leslie is a Colorado native and received her J.D. from Regent University in Virginia Beach, and has a BA from Colorado State University. She is currently licensed to practice law in Colorado and Tennessee. Leslie strongly believes that attorneys have an obligation to give back and help those in need, and which is why she volunteers for Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMAIN), Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, and the Denver Innocence Project.
Student Program Director
Scott Phillips is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver. He has taught a variety of courses at DU, including: Wrongful Conviction, Capital Punishment, Criminology, and Statistics. His research focuses on the administration of capital punishment in Texas and Colorado, using empirical data to examine whether the death penalty is imposed arbitrarily. Professor Phillips’ research on capital punishment has been featured by several media outlets, including the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the Denver Post, Colorado Public Radio, the Death Penalty Information Center, Mother Jones, and the New York Times. He has also served as a member of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Panel on Law and Social Science. A recent example of Professor Phillips’ research was presented at the 2016 Innocence Network Conference in San Antonio and is forthcoming in the Hofstra Law Review (Scott Phillips and Jamie Richardson. 2017. “The Worst of the Worst: Heinous Crimes and Erroneous Evidence”).
Selma and Richard Eikelenboom
Forensic Evidence Experts
Selma and Richard Eikelenboom are husband and wife Dutch Scientists, now residing in Colorado, who specialize in proving innocence through technical evidence (DNA, bloodstain pattern analysis, gunshot evidence, crime scene reconstruction) and forensic medical issues (cause and time of death, injury interpretation). They are experts CYP450 DNA which is the scientific relationship between violent crimes and certain gene types that determine how an individual metabolizes certain psychoactive medications (e.g. antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzos, etc). Selma and Richard have performed forensic tests and testified in many high profile cases, including: Casey Anthony, James Holmes, and JonBenét Ramsey.
Selma and Richard Eikelenboom have worked on several high-profile wrongful conviction cases. Their DNA testing led to the exoneration of Tim Masters, a Fort Collins man who spent 9 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Their DNA testing also helped exonerate David Camm who served 11 years, after he was falsely convicted of killing his wife and two children.
Marijuana Policy Advocate
A leading executive in the cannabis industry, Kayvan Khalatbari co-founded Denver Relief, the longest-operating cannabis business in Denver, CO, prior to its sale to Willie Nelson in 2016. He is also co-founder and operations manager for Denver Relief Consulting, which has assisted clients across North America with winning licenses in merit-based application processes and improving existing operations, and a founding partner in Cresco Labs, the largest medical cannabis cultivator in Illinois, and Silver Sage Wellness in Las Vegas, NV. He has been active in cannabis advocacy and government relations for over a decade and currently sits on the boards of the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, the Resource Innovation Institute, the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Art District on Santa Fe; is a founding member for the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation; and co-chairs a Committee within the Denver Department of Environmental Health to promote environmental stewardship in the cannabis industry.
Kayvan is also a successful entrepreneur beyond the cannabis industry, with multiple business ventures including birdy. magazine, Sexpot Comedy and Sexy Pizza. And, he is an active civic leader, mentoring children through the Denver Kids program since 2007; founding art& in 2016, a progressive creative collective aimed at exploring the relationships that art has with civics, entrepreneurship, livelihood and drug and social policy; and the lead proponent for Denver’s 2016 Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program, which would make Denver the first city in the world to regulate the social use of cannabis.
Jennifer Brown, JD, CLI
Criminal Defense Investigator
Jenn is a Certified Legal Investigator and a Colorado licensed private investigator with a law degree from the University of South Dakota. Jenn specializes in criminal defense investigations and death penalty mitigation. Jenn has had several publications appear in The Legal Investigator and PI Magazine. She is also a Criminal Defense Investigations Instructor at the Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies.
Besides helping the Denver Innocence Project investigate potential innocence cases, during orientation of new Denver Innocence Project members, Jenn will host a Criminal Investigation seminar for law students and volunteers that will teach them how to work with private investigators, and teach advantageous and strategic methods in their own case investigation. Such topics will include: how to locate potential witnesses, how to write interview summaries, ethics and statutory regulation concerning private investigators.