November 8, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666; media@aclu.org 

The ACLU of Washington today announced that its annual awards are being given to Innocence Project founder Jackie McMurtrie, the Muslim civil rights organization CAIR, and Dream Act advocate Carlos Padilla. The honors will be presented at the ACLU’s Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner on the night of Saturday, November 9 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront. The event also will feature a performance by renowned actress Kathleen Turner from her one-woman show "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins."

The William O. Douglas Award is given for outstanding, consistent, and sustained contributions to the cause of civil liberties; it is our lifetime achievement award. Honoree Jackie McMurtrie is a University of Washington Law professor who has devoted nearly 20 years to the pursuit of justice on behalf of individuals wrongly convicted and imprisoned in Washington. Her leadership has made a vital contribution to improving the integrity of our justice system. 

McMurtrie founded the nation’s third Innocence Project in 1997 and has built it from a small volunteer program into a prestigious clinical program of the UW Law School involving scores of students and gaining dozens of releases. Its first big effort was in 1998 in response to the Wenatchee sex abuse cases, where prosecutors had wrongfully charged 43 people with 29,726 counts of child sex abuse.  It quickly became obvious that justice had given way to hysteria.  Under McMurtrie’s leadership, the Innocence Project Northwest coordinated representation that gained the release of 11 individuals from prison.

The clinic’s recent successes include the exonerations of five men who served a combined total of over 50 years in Washington corrections institutions for crimes they did not commit. McMurtrie also has devoted considerable energy to advocating for systemic changes to prevent wrongful convictions. Her influence extends far beyond our state borders; her work was cited by the Tennessee Supreme Court in the reversal of a death penalty conviction.

The Civil Libertarian Award honors people or organizations who have made a recent outstanding contribution to the ACLU-WA or civil liberties in Washington state. The Washington state office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been a forceful voice for fair treatment and respect for the rights of Muslims. The staff, interns, and volunteers of CAIR-Washington have worked tirelessly to protect the civil liberties of and to promote respect and understanding for Muslim Americans.

CAIR-Washington’s wide-ranging activities have included cultural sensitivity trainings, public education about the American Muslim experience, "Know Your Rights" trainings, and assistance to the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes.   CAIR has educated the FBI about training materials with inaccurate views of Muslims, discussed racial profiling concerns with Port of Seattle police, and defended the rights of Muslim employees and inmates to practice their religion. This year CAIR effectively brought together Seattle’s civil rights community to object to a bus ad funded by the U.S. Department of State which stigmatized Muslims as terrorists.  With help from the ACLU and allies, they convinced federal officials to replace the ad.

The Youth Activist Award is presented to a young person (age 22 or younger) or group of young people whose activism exemplifies work to defend and extend liberty and justice for all. Honoree Carlos Padilla has been an energetic, articulate activist for reforming national immigration policy and in seeking justice for "Dreamers"– youthful non-citizen immigrants who arrived in the US as children and grew up without legal status. He is the Project Coordinator and co-founder of the Washington Dream Act Coalition, a grassroots organization advocating for passage of a law providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Padilla has spoken out at rallies, press conferences, and hearings. In February he testified before the state legislature in favor of the Washington Dream Act that would extend eligibility for college financial aid to immigrant students. He helped organize a trip to Washington D.C. for the "March for America" for 12 other leaders involved in the Coalition. This summer Padilla interned in DC as an advocate for immigration reform. Padilla was among those featured in a New York Times article this June about non-citizen immigrants who had reunions with parents across the border from whom they had been separated.

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