In February 2012, Erica returned to the Illinois Innocence Project as the staff attorney for the Wrongful Convictions Grant for non-DNA cases. Cases that do not appear to have any biological evidence where testing will yield exculpatory results are considered non-DNA cases.
Much of Erica’s work focuses on effectively investigating other avenues of determining innocence such as faulty eyewitness identification, prosecutorial misconduct and false confessions. In this position she oversees investigative efforts, conducts interviews of inmates and witnesses, coordinates the retrieval and analysis of evidence and directs students in writing and filing documents with the court. Erica is also closely involved with efforts to educate the students and community about wrongful convictions and legal ethics.
Erica Nichols Cook attended Drake University Law School, participating in the Drake Legal Clinic criminal defense clinic. Her article “Eyewitness Identification and the Need for Change in Iowa” was published in the 2009 issue of the Drake Law Review. While in law school, she clerked for the Illinois Office of State Appellate Defender and served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for the juvenile justice system in Iowa. She graduated in 2009 with Honors and the Ferguson Gold Award for Public Service. Erica was an assistant Cook County Public Defender prior to coming to the Illinois Innocence Project.
Prior to law school, Erica received her paralegal certificate from Illinois Central College and her Bachelor’s in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois Springfield. She worked as a paralegal for the Springfield law firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens, LLP. She has previously worked with the Illinois Innocence Project as an undergraduate student. It was her experience, as a UIS student, working on Herbert Whitlock’s post-conviction evidentiary hearing propelled her to apply for law school.