Lawyer for Northern California Innocence project was in relationship with key witness whose testimony she used to overturn murderer's conviction: report

"She pretended to take a personal interest in me," he told the Standard. "It was the art of seduction at its finest. All to get me to finally help Mr. Caldwell."

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Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
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It has been revealed that a lawyer with the Northern California Innocence Project who helped overturn the conviction of a man found guilty of murder in 1990 entered into a relationship with the key witness, whose connections and testimony were instrumental in freeing him, after being assigned to his case. The convicted killer, Maurice Caldwell, was not only freed, but successfully sued for $8 million upon his release, which also brought in a surge of donations to the NCIP.

Paige Kaneb, who now serves as director for the group, was blackmailed by the witness, Marritte Funches, who threatened to bring their affair to light. When she failed to meet his lofty demands, he leaked an extensive collection of evidence to the San Francisco Standard.

According to the outlet, Kaneb began working on Caldwell's case shortly after joining the NCIP out of law school in 2007. Three years later, she met Funches, who was serving life in prison in Nevada for an unrelated murder. The pair hit it off, and before long, a romance blossomed. He helped her secure additional witnesses to prove Caldwell's innocence, and she helped him with legal advice. When she allegedly violated his rule that the witnesses could remain anonymous, however, he broke things off.

Kaneb and the NCIP went on to craft a case that was enough to convince a San Francisco Superior Court judge to grant Caldwell a new trial, however instead of retrying him, the district attorney decided to instead dismiss his case entirely. He went on to sue the city and receive the aforementioned payout, despite never being declared "factually innocent."

Funches and Kaneb began speaking again a few years later, and by 2023, their relationship had been rekindled. Per the Standard, they sent each other thousands of text messages, videos, and photos, some of which were sexual in nature. They even introduced one another to their children. Eventually, however, things fell apart again when Funches told Kaneb that he had lied about Caldwell's innocence, and he began to suspect that she had used him, faking her feelings to free the convicted killer.

"She pretended to take a personal interest in me," he told the Standard. "It was the art of seduction at its finest. All to get me to finally help Mr. Caldwell."



While it is not illegal for a lawyer to be in a relationship with a witness, the pair's closeness could have caused a judge to toss Funches' testimony. Nonetheless, the NCIP has defended Kaneb's actions, saying they believe "these claims have no bearing on the rightful exoneration of this innocent man."

Evidence supporting the allegations levelled against Kaneb by Funches have been sent to Santa Clara University for investigation. The matter is also being looked into by the DA. The Northern California Innocence Project is separate from the national Innocence Project.

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