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Founding Board

Innocence Matters humble beginnings could not impede the passion of three women determined to turn a dream into a reality.  We held our first meeting on March 22, 2010 without a penny in the bank or a place to call home.  In the span of a few short months, the founding members attracted initial funding, an office, our first client, an extraordinarily dedicated summer intern.  Together, they created an organization that will soon claim the honor of helping to set their first client free from a life sentence.    

Message from the Founding Chair:  

To my fellow founding board members, Jody & Cherryl, 

Thank you for believing in us and giving me the courage to follow my heart!  On behalf of John Smith and all the exonerees to follow, please know that without you none of this would have ever been possible without you two. 

With much gratitude and love, 



Innocence Matters
PO Box 4099
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

(310) 780-4522


Deirdre O'Connor, Chair & Executive Director

Deirdre O'Connor earned her J.D. degree from Northeastern University in 1993. She enjoyed a highly successful career devoted exclusively to the plight of indigent criminal defendants at the Public Defender Office in Los Angeles.  She later served as the Clinic Director for the Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic at Emory Law School where her students learned how to try their first criminal case. In 2007, Deirdre learned of the Troy Davis case and, after a careful review of the entire record at trial and the new evidence, she became convinced of Troy's innocence.  It was inconceivable that someone with such compelling evidence of innocence could come within 90 minutes of execution. Sadly, on September 21, 2011, Georgia executed Troy Davis despite compelling evidence of innocence.  Her exposure to Troy's case prompted her to create Innocence Matters and her memory of him will forever inspire her work.

Cherryl Brazier, Founder & Former Secretary 

Cherryl Brazier is the Director of Global Sales with Carlson Hotels, representing 400 hotels in 77 countries around the world. Previously, she was the Global Director of Group Incentive Sales for Millennium Hotels and Resorts for the west coast and Texas, based in Los Angeles.  A native of Britain, Cherryl moved to the United States in 1998 to assume the role of Senior Marketing executive with the British Tourist Authority in Los Angeles.  A 20 year hospitality industry veteran, Brazier was educated at Leeds Polytechnic School of Hospitality Management in the U.K. and has been a member of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives( SITE) for 10 years.  She has served on the SITE Southern California Board, the International Membership committee and Cherryl served as Chair of the 2007 SITE International Conference. Cherryl has also been a mentor with the Fulfillment Fund in Los Angeles for over 5 years.

Dr. JoNell "Jody" Usher

Jody Usher currently serves as Co-Director of Emory University’s Transforming Community Project, a five year strategic plan initiative meant to mobilize a wide cross-section of Emory in a reflective, fact-driven engagement with the institution’s history and current experiences of race, gender, sexuality and other forms of human difference.

With an Emory doctorate in cognitive psychology, Jody served as assistant dean in three of Emory’s nine schools—Emory College, the Graduate School, and the School of Public Health.  Her strong interest in ending racism also placed her in the university president’s office to help direct the 2002 Atlanta exhibit Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America.  Jody is the 2009 recipient of the Emory LGBT Person of the Year Award.  Jody served as treasurer for three other non-profits in Georgia, including Southern Truth and Reconciliation and Toastmasters @ Emory.  She also led the National Coalition Building Institute Emory affiliate for 12 years..