Conviction Review Unit - Advisory Board

To start, the CRU Advisory Board will advise the Attorney General on the establishment, functioning, and hiring of the unit. On an ongoing basis, it will advise on national best practices and evolving issues related to wrongful convictions and sentencing, and make policy recommendations. The board’s first steps will be to approve the charter for the Conviction Review Unit, and to make a recommendation to the Attorney General about hiring the unit director.

“No justice system can be successful without the trust of the public,” said Attorney General Ellison. “By collaborating with community activists, national criminal-justice experts, and prosecutors, we are striving for a more perfect system. I look forward to working with the board members to fulfill the mission of the CRU and thank them for their pursuit of justice.”

Upcoming Meetings

The next meeting of the advisory board will be in Fall 2024.

Date: TBD

Members of the Advisory Board

Paul Anderson became Chief Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1992. In 1994, Governor Arne Carlson appointed him an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, where served until 2013. While on the Court he was an active member of the Race Bias Elimination Committee and the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Public Access to Records of the Judicial Branch, the Criminal Rules Committee, as well as several other assignments. He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Tamara Cabán-Ramirez has a solo law practice of 15 years that focuses on criminal defense and immigration law. Ms. Cabán-Ramirez is a past president of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association (MHBA) and currently serves on its Judicial Endorsement Committee. She also serves as Deputy Regional President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), co-chair of the Special Committee on Puerto Rico, and the ImmiGRANT Defense Fund Task Force.

John Choi was sworn in as the first Korean-American chief prosecutor in the country in 2011. Since taking office, John has become a state and national leader in progressive justice reform, working with public officials and impacted communities to reimagine justice and the role of prosecutors. County Attorney Choi is past president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association. He previous served as Saint Paul City Attorney from 2006–10 and spent a decade in private practice.

Elizer Darris is the organizer in charge of the ACLU of Minnesota’s Smart Justice Campaign. As a juvenile, he was sentenced to life in prison, but he studied in prison and worked with his state-appointed counsel to get his life sentence reversed on appeal. Upon his release, Mr. Darris became a business owner, consultant, educator, community organizer, youth mentor, and motivational speaker. He served on the 2019 statewide Working Group empaneled by the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Public Safety that focused on creating and implementing strategies to reduce law enforcement deadly force encounters. Mr. Darris serves on multiple boards and was recently appointed by Governor Tim Walz to the State Board of Public Defense.

Fred Friedman has been an attorney since 1972, a public defender in Minnesota since 1973, and a professor since 1975. He served as the Chief Public Defender of Minnesota’s Sixth District (northeastern Minnesota) from the spring of 1986 until April 2014 and is Minnesota’s longest serving chief defender in history. He is the chair of the National Association of Public Defenders (NAPD) Strike Force Committee that upon request advises and assists public defenders who view themselves or their organization in political or legal crisis. In addition to an attorney and career public defender, Mr. Friedman is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he has taught since 1975.

Nadine Graves is a public defender who has represented hundreds of people charged with criminal offenses ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. She currently represents parents subjected to child-protection cases. Outside of the courtroom, Ms. Graves is the board chair of a non-profit, We Are Criminals, an organization dedicated to challenging society’s perceptions of what it means to be “criminal.”

Sara Jones is the executive director of the Great North Innocence Project (GN-IP). Ms. Jones has been ED of GN-IP for two years and is responsible for the strategic and financial leadership of the organization, among other responsibilities. Her background includes six years of work in litigation of civil constitutional claims as an Assistant Minnesota Attorney General and four years in private practice. In addition, Ms. Jones has nineteen years of experience as a development and nonprofit leader and, since joining GN-IP, has worked on collaborative policy initiatives related to wrongful convictions.

Mary Moriarty is the elected Hennepin County Attorney. Prior to her election, Moriarty served as a public defender in Hennepin County for 31 years, with 6 of those years being Hennepin County’s first female Chief Public Defender (2014-2020). Throughout her career, County Attorney Moriarty has been a nationally sought expert in criminal law and criminal trials. She has taught at the Harvard Law School Advocacy Workshop, the National Criminal Defense College, and the Minnesota Trial Advocacy Institute, and she has served as a frequent local and national commentator on criminal justice issues

Laura Nirider is a Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. There, she co-directs the Center on Wrongful Convictions, which has exonerated more than 40 innocent people. Her clients have included Brendan Dassey, whose case was profiled in the Netflix Global series “Making a Murderer,” and Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, whose case was profiled in the documentary “West of Memphis.” She recently served as an advisor to a national panel of independent experts that reviewed the Minnesota case of Myon Burrell.

Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. A former federal prosecutor, he later won the case of Spears v. United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Court ruling that judges could categorically reject a mandatory 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. In 2020, Osler served as chair of the independent panel that reviewed the case of Myon Burrell and recommended that Burrell receive a commutation of sentence.

Caroline Palmer is the Safe Harbor Director at the Minnesota Department of Health. Her focus is on building cross-disciplinary collaboration across government and private sectors on behalf of survivors of sex and labor trafficking. She is responsible for overseeing several aspects of Safe Harbor program management including policy development, training, grant administration, and data/evaluation. Prior to joining MDH in 2018, Palmer was the Policy and Legal Affairs Manager for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault for over a decade.

Bishop Harding Smith is the founder of Minnesota Acts Now, a multifaceted, collective, non-profit organization that is focused on eradicating gun violence, homelessness, and aiming to structure today's youth into tomorrow's leaders. Bishop Harding Smith also seeks to enrich the community's lives through religion. He is the current Bishop of The Spiritual Church of God.

Karin Sonneman was first elected to the office of Winona County Attorney in November 2010. Prior to her election, Karin was a Third Judicial District Assistant Public Defender for 20 years and was in the private practice of law for 15 of those years with her husband, Karl Sonneman. Among her many professional activities, Karin has served on the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) since its inception in 2007 and is currently the chairperson of the CJCC, having held that position since 2015. Karin also serves on the Minnesota County Attorneys Association Board of Directors.

F. Clayton Tyler is the founder of the firm, F. Clayton Tyler, P.A. He previously chaired the Criminal Justice Act panel, which consists of over 120 attorneys who accept appointment to represent federal public-defender eligible defendants. He is also a past president of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL). F. Clayton Tyler is highly involved in the community, having been chair of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, chair of the Minneapolis Urban League, president of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, and a member of the University of Minnesota Diversity Task Force.