2018 Defender of the Innocent Award Recipients

Exoneration Project - SQUARE

The Exoneration Project 

The Exoneration Project (EP), a pro bono legal clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, provided critical work and countless resources toward the exoneration of IIP client Bill Amor. Attorney Tara Thompson, a founding member of EP, led the trial team that proved Bill’s innocence once and for all, after his 22 years of wrongful imprisonment. 

EP is dedicated to reversing wrongful convictions. In November 2017, EP won the exonerations of 15 men, resulting in Cook County’s first-ever mass exoneration. Their original wrongful drug convictions stemmed from systematic framing by disgraced former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his tactical team that terrorized residents of the Ida B. Wells housing community for a decade.

Beyond assisting clients with their claims of actual innocence in court, EP advocates for greater accountability in the justice system and works with community-minded organizations to help exonerees succeed in their re-entry to society.

For more...Exoneration Project


Paul Echols - SQUARELt. Paul E. Echols 

Lt. Paul Echols (retired), of the Carbondale, Ill., Police Department, was instrumental in resolving several cold case murders in Carbondale and other jurisdictions. He is the author of “In Cold Pursuit,” a book about the investigation into serial killer Tim Krajcir, who murdered nine women and confessed to raping dozens of women across four states. During this investigation Paul learned a man named Grover Thompson had been wrongly convicted in 1981 of the attempted murder of a woman who Tim Krajcir later confessed to stabbing. 

The book’s chapter on Grover, who died in prison in 1996, caught the attention of two Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law students working for the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP), which in 2011 submitted an Executive Clemency Petition on Grover’s behalf. In December 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner denied Grover’s exoneration without explanation in a one-line letter to the family. Paul continues to seek Grover’s posthumous exoneration. 

During his career, Paul received numerous awards and commendations including Carbondale Police Officer of the Year and Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Recognition Award. He has twice received the Illinois State Bar Association Law Enforcement Award and the Carbondale Police Chief ‘s Award of Merit. 

Paul began his career as a Carbondale Police Officer in 1981. He was promoted to the Investigations Division in 1986 where he served as the Department’s CSI and Latent Print Examiner until 2000.  He was promoted to Sergeant in 1993 and Lieutenant in 2006, and also served as Patrol Sergeant and Investigations Commander until his retirement in 2009.  
In 2009, Paul became the full-time criminal justice instructor at Shawnee College and part-time lecturer in the SIU Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. He was named Shawnee College Instructor of the Year in 2014. Paul is a graduate of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, and the 188th Session of the FBI National Academy. He has a master’s degree from SIU.  


Outlook Outlook
iCal iCal
Google Google
Yahoo! Yahoo!