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First Virtual XONR8 Gala Hits the High Notes

CIP Exonerees

“What I really wanted our viewers to get out of the virtual gala was that it's a celebration of our clients and the work.”

So said Jasmin Harris, Associate Director of Development and Policy at the California Innocence Project (CIP), as she described her goal of hosting the first-ever virtual XONR8 Gala on December 1.

Judging by the attendance and feedback after the event, the virtual gala exceeded Harris’ expectations and set a new standard for how to take a very in-person occasion online.

In a riveting hour-long spectacle, the virtual gala took viewers on a whirlwind and at times heart-rending tour of the California Innocence Project’s work, their clients, and their total dedication to freeing the innocent.

MC’d by Justin Brooks, CIP Director, the gala was streamed live on CIP’s website, Facebook, and YouTube. It included a silent auction, live link-ups with exonerees (including Marilyn Mulero, who spent 27 years incarcerated for a crime she did not commit), celebrity endorsements, XONR8R Awards, live music, and more.

“The XONR8 Gala is such an important and incredible evening spent honoring our innocent clients and our work,” said Harris. “It gives us the opportunity for people to get a closer look at what we do and to hear from some of our exonerees and supporters.”

Sean Scott, President and Dean of California Western, home of CIP, gave an address in which she stressed the importance of CIP in effecting change and teaching students how change happens.

“One of the things that I love about CIP is that it says to students we bring about justice in small ways that cumulatively have a huge impact,” said Scott. “Every day, it is really making the commitment to change, to advance the cause of this person today and the next day to move it a little bit further.”

The gala presented video excerpts from exonerees as they tasted their first moments of freedom, underscoring the tremendous human impact CIP’s work involves. These videos included Michael Hanline’s first steps to freedom after being incarcerated for 36 years and Uriah Courtney reuniting with his son after seven years.

“Thank you so much for supporting CIP,” concluded Brooks. “This has been a great night, and I am one of the luckiest people in the world as every day I get to work with an amazing team at CIP—the lawyers, the staff, the students, and our amazing board.”

“I am lucky for each one of the 34 exonerations, each one of the people walking out of prison that has become part of our community. I know it’s not easy to relive the worst thing that happened to you in your life, but it’s so important that people hear these stories and be educated about the problem of wrongful incarceration.”

Watch the complete 2020 Virtual XONR8 Gala here.