Kentucky Innocence Project

The Kentucky Innocence Project (KIP) was developed by the Department of Public Advocacy to provide incarcerated men and women who have legitimate claims of innocence with a resource through which their claims may be investigated and presented to the courts of the Commonwealth for relief. 

KIP serves the entire state by not only addressing each case of wrongful conviction but also addressing much broader concerns in the criminal justice system. KIP seeks to introduce innovative social policies, to create progressive legislative and constitutional reforms, and to establish itself as a conduit for progress.

Founded in 2001, the Kentucky Innocence Project provides quality investigative and legal assistance to Kentucky prisoners with provable claims of actual innocence. The Program combines the resources of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (the Commonwealth’s Public Defender Agency) with several of the Commonwealth’s finest educational institutions to extensively investigate and litigate claims of innocence by those convicted in the state of Kentucky. The Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase School of Law, the University of Kentucky College of Law, the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law offer students the opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Innocence Project Externship. These students receive the opportunity to sharpen professional skills while performing a valuable service to the wrongfully incarcerated men and women of the Commonwealth. Unlike many other innocence projects across the country, KIP does not limit cases only to those where DNA evidence exists. Instead the Kentucky Innocence Project strives to release all wrongfully convicted Kentuckians.

Suzanne Hopf is the supervisor of the Kentucky Innocence Project
Suzanne earned a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Colorado State University in 1993, and graduated from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law in 1996.  Since 1998, Suzanne has been a staff attorney with DPA, working in a variety of roles with the Juvenile Post Disposition Branch.  As an appellate advocate, Suzanne is responsible for a number of important, published decisions including D.R. v. Commonwealth, 64 S.W.3d 292 (Ky.App. 2001)(juveniles cannot waive counsel without first speaking with counsel);  X.B. v. Commonwealth, 105 S.W.3d 459 (Ky.App. 2003)(juvenile court cannot commit a child to the state without first making findings that commitment was the least restrictive alternative); D.R.T. v. Commonwealth, 111 S.W.3d 392 (Ky.App. 2002) (a person who was charged as a juvenile cannot be placed in an adult facility when they turn 18); and Commonwealth v. Jeffries, 95 S.W.3d 60 (Ky. 2002) (youthful offender is entitled to a hearing at 18 years of age, prior to a decision being made on whether to probate the youth or send them to the Department of Corrections).  Suzanne followed a successful career as an appellate attorney with work as the coordinator of a Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant (JAIBG) awarded to DPA, where she worked with trial attorneys in juvenile matters.  For the last several years Suzanne has been working with youth committed to DJJ’s facilities.  In that capacity she successfully represented Samuel Marra, who was convicted of complicity to a murder committed by his older brother when Samuel was 16 years of age, and who was probated by the Court at age 21.  Samuel’s case was the focus of a video presentation at the DPA Annual Conference Opening session last year in Owensboro.    For her exceptional representation of juveniles, Suzanne was given the In re Gault award in 2012. 

In addition to her work with DPA, Suzanne has also worked as adjunct faculty for the Indiana University Criminal Justice Division, for the University of Virginia at Wise, VA, Spalding University in Louisville, Bellarmine University and for the University of Louisville Department of Sociology during the past twenty years.

Learn More About KIP

Click the links below to learn more about the Kentucky Innocence Project