The Lawyer of Last Resort

When the appeals are exhaustedand the jailhouse key about to be thrown away, Katie Monroe is the woman to call. For the past two decades, she hasfought to free the wrongfully convicted—including her own mother, who was sentenced to 22 years for a murder she did not commit

by Alexis Jetter
katie monroe in front of prison image
Katie Monroe at the Utah State Prison in Draper, where several clients of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Ceneter are incarcerated.
Photograph: Dan Winters

Back in her Salt Lake City bungalow, curled on the couch sipping green tea, Monroe is on a roll. She’s helping a group of exonerated prisoners stage a rock concert for an upcoming Rocky Mountain Innocence Center benefit, and she’s jetting around the West, talking to police and prosecutor groups about avoiding the errors that land the wrong people in prison. “No one wants to make these mistakes,” she says. But fighting for innocent prisoners is a race against time, and Monroe often feels she’s falling behind. “Look, all too often someone’s being wrongfully convicted, right?” Monroe says. “There’s no question that these convictions are preventable, if we could just get out on the front end and improve the way that law enforcement does its business. But getting that work done!” Monroe throws up her hands, then stops and laughs at her own intensity.

The new job she’s just taken may make her work easier: This fall Monroe will start working for the national Innocence Project, expanding its outreach to victims’ organizations, police groups and prosecutor organizations in D.C. “It’s a great fit for me,” Monroe says. For her, the move means going home—and that feels right. She looks up and smiles: Asher, 14, has come in wearing a T-shirt that says EXECUTE JUSTICE, NOT PEOPLE. They need to get on their way; The Tempest is being staged at the university playhouse, and Monroe, once again, is running late. But Asher doesn’t mind a quick interrogation. “I don’t see her as a kick-ass mobilizer person,” he says. “I just see her as my mom.” He gives her a hug and a sweet, braces-filled smile. “But if I were thrown in jail, I would definitely call her. Because I know she’d get me out.”

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First published in the September 2012 issue

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Solmaz 01.22.2013

Monroe's personality is rare in our society. Not all lawyers believed that most people who are convicted are innocents. Katie Monroe is indeed a woman of substance.

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