MTIP Gets New Director and Legal Director

Missoula, MT — The Board of Directors for the Montana Innocence Project has chosen Frank Knaack as the organization’s next Executive Director. In addition, Caiti Carpenter has joined the organization as its Legal Director.

Knaack brings more than a decade of experience in designing and leading human rights advocacy campaigns to advance systemic reforms.

“Frank’s prior experiences in developing institutional improvements in the criminal justice system and fundraising means that the Montana Innocence Project will be posed to reach out further to assure that the promise of Justice for All is realized for the marginalized communities in Montana as well as those wrongfully convicted,” said Ron Waterman, Board President of the Montana Innocence Project.

Prior to joining the Montana Innocence Project, Knaack was the Executive Director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, based in Montgomery, Alabama. There, he led the creation of integrated advocacy campaigns seeking to end policing for profit and a court system funded off the backs of the poor, ensure equal access to the courts, and create a public health centered approach to drug policy. In Alabama, Knaack also co-led successful efforts to end judicial override in capital sentencing and stop Alabama sheriffs from personally profiting from jail food money.  

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to lead the Montana Innocence Project and build on its history, in the courts and at the legislature, of exonerating the innocent and preventing wrongful convictions,” said Knaack. “I am excited to work alongside our incredible staff and volunteers, committed board, pro bono partners, diverse supporters, and directly impacted community members to achieve the Montana Innocence Project’s mission.”

Earlier in his career, Knaack spent eight years with the American Civil Liberties Union and its Texas and Virginia affiliates.

Knaack received his M.A. in International Human Rights Law from The American University in Cairo (Egypt) and B.A. from the University of Vermont. He lives in Missoula with his wife and two children.    

Caiti Carpenter joined the Montana Innocence Project as its Legal Director, where she will direct the organization’s post-conviction investigations and litigation and the organization’s Innocence Clinic.

“Caiti brings an enthusiasm to the position and is motivated to build on the successes created by our prior Legal Director Larry Mansch,” said Waterman.

Prior to joining the Montana Innocence Project, Carpenter was a Whitefish-based criminal defense attorney. There she gained extensive courtroom experience trying both felonies and misdemeanors. She is also co-counsel on a post-conviction relief case with the State of Montana’s Office of the Public Defender.

“I could not be more overjoyed to dig into this work of exonerating the innocent”, said Carpenter. “As Legal Director for the Montana Innocence Project, I am honored to use my reason, morality, and passion to fight to preserve humanity by freeing innocent people from prison. In pursuing this righteous goal, how can I not want to  jump out of bed and get to the office every morning?”

Carpenter received her J.D. cum laude from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder. She lives in Missoula with her husband.    

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