Gladiator Law Marketing for Attorneys
Gladiator Law Marketing for Attorneys


The Power of Passionate Advocacy in Wrongful Conviction Cases With Ashley Cohen

April 17, 2024   |   Written by Gladiator Law Marketing
Ashley Cohen

Ashley Cohen

Ashley Cohen is the Managing Partner at Bonjean Law Group, a firm specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation with a commitment to fighting for individuals whose rights have been violated by the criminal justice system. Starting at the firm in July 2014, shortly before graduating from New York Law School in May 2015, Ashley quickly became an integral part of the team. As a licensed attorney in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, she is known for her proficiency in all aspects of litigation, from managing extensive caseloads to achieving successful outcomes in both state and federal courts. Her other responsibilities include overseeing the firm’s day-to-day operations, strategic planning, and marketing, and direct involvement in litigation, including depositions, drafting legal documents, negotiating settlements, and litigating evidentiary hearings.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Ashley Cohen shares her journey to becoming a criminal defense attorney
  • How Bonjean Law Group handles high profile cases and overturning convictions
  • Why lawyers should do their own legwork in investigations
  • The importance of helping wrongly convicted clients reenter society
  • Challenges and criticisms faced by a firm handling high-profile cases
  • Ashley’s advice for aspiring attorneys

In this episode…

Wrongful convictions flip lives upside down. But what propels a lawyer to tackle these challenging battles head-on?

According to Ashley Cohen, a seasoned civil rights litigator, her work is driven by a deep commitment to justice and standing up for those wrongfully accused. She stresses the importance of detailed investigations and solid, evidence-based cases. Being directly involved in collecting details and understanding each case can unveil patterns of misconduct and systemic errors often overlooked. Ashley believes that the transformative effect of this meticulous approach not only secures exonerations but also influences broader legal reforms.

In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen talks with Ashley Cohen, Managing Partner at Bonjean Law Group, about her relentless pursuit of justice in wrongful conviction cases. They discuss the power of legal advocacy, the critical importance of supporting exonerees after their release, and the emotional and professional dedication required in this challenging field of law.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. 

To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition. 

To learn more, go to or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t.

Chad Franzen 0:12

Hi. Chad Franzen here, one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Ashley Cohen is Managing Partner of the Bonjean Law Group, a national criminal defense and civil rights litigation firm. Since joining the firm in 2014, she has assisted in the exonerations of over 15 men who are wrongly convicted of crimes that they didn’t commit. She has obtained over $20 million in settlements and or verdicts for civil rights plaintiffs. She’s also the partner and right hand to Jennifer Bonjean, the attorney responsible for getting Bill Cosby’s conviction overturned. They currently represent several high profile individuals such as Cosby, R. Kelly, and Harvey Weinstein. Hey, Ashley, great to have you today. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for joining me.

Ashley Cohen 1:26

Thanks for having me.

Chad Franzen 1:27

Hey, tell me Where’d you grow up?

Ashley Cohen 1:30

I grew up in Long Island, New York.

Chad Franzen 1:32

When and how? If so, while growing up, did you know that you wanted to be an attorney.

Ashley Cohen 1:41

I always knew I wanted to help people. I found myself in situations where I was typically advocating for the underdog i i had a boyfriend in high school who wouldn’t do well on his classes or didn’t do his homework. And I was always going in to the teacher and trying to convince them to give him another chance. Or, you know, I had friends who would get called into the principal’s office, and I would be the one in there like advocating, you know, saying, defending them. So I knew there was something in me that wanted to definitely advocate for people who were not being advocated for. And as I got older, it was my freshman year of college in Wisconsin that I began learning about wrongful conviction work, I actually took a criminal justice in America class. It’s probably one of the only classes and teachers I truly remember. And I learned about, actually Steven Avery’s case who is now the star of Making a Murderer, and I was like, that’s what I want to do. So from my freshman year of college, I knew I double majored in Legal Studies and Sociology, I got a criminal justice certificate and my entire path from there was all geared towards wrongful conviction work and eventually civil rights as well.

Chad Franzen 3:13

Would you say that growing up in Long Island has helped you in this profession, like in Colorado, where I where I’m from and where I grew up, I guess New Yorkers are regarded as more direct, maybe in in Colorado where you might, you know, try and sidestep certain things where, whereas in maybe a Long Island in New York, you’re like, direct and you’re like ready to attack?

Ashley Cohen 3:33

Maybe I guess so. Although I do not have a fan from a family of lawyers. I know nobody, nobody in my family is a lawyer. None of my friends really became lawyers. So I don’t really know what it is about Long Island or New York besides my bluntness and my crassness and my directness.

Chad Franzen 3:55

So you told us how you got inspired by how your you got your passion for criminal defense. How did you get started in the legal industry post law school?

Ashley Cohen 4:07

So actually, funny story, my, my professor in law school, she was an adjunct professor, and shy, I did a criminal defense clinic with her. And after a while, I was like, I knew I wanted to do wrongful conviction work, but I didn’t. I also started really liking civil rights work, you know, suing in 90 section 1983 cases, holding people, you know, police officers in the city responsible for, you know, failing to discipline failing to supervise their officers and just really police brutality cases. So I told my professor and she’s like, I have somebody that I want to introduce you to. She actually won against Jenny, my partner in a case out of New Jersey, and she put me in touch with Jenny during my The Summer going into my third year of law school, I started interning for the Bonjean Law Group then, and I started, you know, I built a website, I did all social media I, I was getting credit for class, basically anything and everything that I could do to make myself of use at the firm I was doing. And it I’ve been with her ever since I’m almost on my 10th year now.

Chad Franzen 5:32

Wow. So you, you basically started as kind of a jack of all trades type, college student, intern type person, and then you just work your way up to partner.

Ashley Cohen 5:41

Yes, that is true.

Chad Franzen 5:47

Was the firm representing the types of clients then as it is now? The same types?

Ashley Cohen 5:54

So my partner Jenny is she started her career doing appeals in Illinois. And she also did a lot of wrongful conviction work. I would say a lot of it at the time was more civil rights based like in New Jersey, we had this niche. They were using canines in Atlantic City to apprehend disorderly conduct people or you know, minor offenses. And we, we had about eight cases simultaneously pending when I came in. So she kind of was focused there. And then the exoneration work in Illinois just really took off. She’s always been a brilliant appellate attorney. And it really just showed as of over the last 10 years, we’ve gotten an enormous amount of exonerations were to person. I mean, right now we have an associate and just the two of us, but we’re really small firm. Since I’ve been working for her, we’ve never had more than four attorney for attorneys at a time. So the work that we do now, she started representing Mr. Cosby back in, I want to say 2018, maybe. And once his conviction was once once she got his conviction tossed and overturned, we got more business from a higher profile clientele. And it’s now turned into also civil defense, where they’re, you know, they opened up these look back windows, and people are suing for misconduct that happened in the 70s and the 80s. And the 90s. And, you know, even though that’s not typically what we were doing, it really does come full circle, because it’s really stripping somebody of their constitutional guarantees, and a right to an attorney and their right to a defense. And, you know, how do you defend something that you did from 1972? I mean, you just can’t. And so fundamentally, it really all kind of stems from the same area where all we’re, we’re very much, you know, pro Pro, the Constitution, pro rights, and we really believe that people deserve fair representation, and everybody should be treated the same. So, you know, it’s, it’s a weird development of how it’s, you know, come about, but it makes sense in my mind. Sure. And she’s, and she’s the best. I mean, we’re the best people for the job.

Chad Franzen 8:38

Yeah, yeah. It sounds like, so can you tell me or us about a particular case that you’ve been a part of, you know, since 2014, that stands out to you, that you’re, you know, you’re proud over? That’s particularly memorable?

Ashley Cohen 8:53

Um, oh, that’s a loaded question. I mean, prior to COVID, we were doing trials probably once a year, they were mostly civil rights trials out in. In New Jersey, we did a wrongful conviction case out in Chicago in Illinois. Those were all really memorable. But honestly, for Well, first of all, my my exonerations, the wrongful conviction cases, those are of course most memorable, you’re saving people’s lives. You’re getting them out of prison after 20 some odd years of you know, they’ve, they’ve been in they don’t have a lot of family to come out to. So those are absolutely top tier, the most important, you know, are most rewarding, I should say cases because it really is just helping people and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do with my career. But last year, we did represent R Kelly at trial in in Illinois and we He was charged under a 13 count indictment. We there were seven, not guilty. And it was the first time I had ever tried a free trial criminal defense case. So somebody who hadn’t been convicted yet, although he was convicted in New York, he hadn’t been convicted in Illinois. And it was just a really awesome experience. It was. I mean, not awesome. Obviously, for him. He has a long sentence, but it was it was a very unique experience than what I had been used to. And I learned a lot doing that.

Chad Franzen 10:35

So as I mentioned in your intro, you have been part of the exoneration of over 15 people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes. That’s a no just to somebody who’s just kind of an observer. That’s, that’s an astounding number. And that’s just something that’s been that that you’ve been a part of.

Ashley Cohen 10:54

Yeah, I mean, I should say it’s not just exonerations, it’s also, you know, a case that’s gotten dismissed after a post trial motion or on appeal, it’s been remanded, but they’re, I mean, exonerations are probably, I think, around 10, or 12. And Jenny and I, when I started, we were pounding pavement investigating driving all over the Midwest, talking to witnesses, flying to different states, and basically helping to expose the misconduct of a really bad officer who is out in Chicago, Detective Ronaldo, Guevara, and he was responsible for framing. I mean, I don’t even know the numbers. I know at least there’s already been 40 exonerations on because of his misconduct. So we, in the last 10 years have been really working on those cases investigating, you know, other witnesses who were either forced to identify somebody or pick out of a lineup or provide provided the false confessions, all of that we really kind of started from, like, when I started, we were totally just investigating like feet, like me and her knocking on doors, all different types of areas, wherever. And it led to a significant amount of exonerations specifically for us. And a lot of our clients are victims of this bad cop. So that’s that’s helped.

Chad Franzen 12:38

You were investigating just in general not like on behalf of, you know, a specific client or something like that.

Ashley Cohen 12:44

Well, so we have these clients and all their allegations seem relatively similar. There’s like, you know, there’s a young victim, young or a couple young victims, and then their testimony. After they were like, for instance, we there’s a, there’s a case of a drive by shooting, there’s one person who’s deceased, one person who survives, there are a young girl, they’re about 15 years old, they are at the hospital, and the police come to the hospital, and they show them a photo and they say, this is the guy who did it, right. They’re like, This is who did it, and they’re like, oh, yeah, that’s who did it. And over time, their memories and their minds, make them believe that that’s actually who did it, but it’s actually just the procedures that these officers were using were just manipulative. And they were, you know, not they were not sound procedures. So we’re constitutional. So all these tactics, and that’s just one example. But a lot of the tactics just were improper, and it’s been exposed that a lot of these cases were linked to this officer who was doing this regularly telling people who to point out in lineups telling you know, telling people this is who did it, you know, messing with their, their brains. So you’re traumatized 15 year old girl, how do you you know, somebody comes in a cop and tells you this is who did it you’re gonna believe on and you’re going to believe them 20 years down the road because you never knew anything different. So it’s, it’s unfortunate, but there have been over the years, a lot of people who have come forward and said that he told me who to point out or he told me what to say or and that’s, that’s great. It’s great. And we we’ve been really successful at just tracking people down who had similar experiences, who could say yes, you know, Detective Guevara came and saw me and I was a crime victim and I he told me who did it and he told me who to point out and I did and now I feel guilty. I’m, you know, I’m remorseful that I put somebody in prison that I shouldn’t have. And, you know, they come forward with their story, but it took a lot of time and a lot of investigating to get At the affidavits and the testimony and everything, and there were other people working on it. At the same time, the exoneration project has done amazing work and Loevy and Loevy. But, you know, we were that was kind of what we were doing at the same time.

Chad Franzen 15:12

Is the investigation, like all the background work, is that kind of the key to your success? Would you say?

Ashley Cohen 15:19

Um, I’d say it’s, it is the, like, I think it’s very helpful that we are the type of people who do our own legwork. I think it’s really important because we have the institutional knowledge of what these cases are about where, why these victims and why these witnesses are all, you know, continuously identifying the wrong people, right, so we get the information firsthand from these witnesses, and it helps us understand why this was happening. It helped us put together our theories of cases and why, you know, there was a pattern and practice of misconduct on certain officers and how they did it. And so yeah, I think doing the investigation ourselves was super helpful. It’s much it’s much easier to rely on your own memory and what you see and how you communicate with people, then then, you know, a random investigator, you don’t really know anything about.

Chad Franzen 16:19

What would you say is the key to your success, maybe like in the courtroom, or something like that? And how have you evolved like that? Take me back to your first your first courtroom case, what were you feeling, and now maybe how you feel now going into a courtroom.

Ashley Cohen 16:33

So I actually play a very nice role in what I do. I mean, Jenny is the she is the, I would say, how I describe it as she’s like the actor, and I’m like the producer. So she, you know, is dramatic and fantastic and brilliant and theatrical. And I’m the one who keeps everything moving behind the scenes, and make sure it runs smoothly and make sure that she has everything she needs. And my brain is on her brain so that when she’s like, getting ready to pull up a document or need something for a witness, like I am kind of right along with her are her you know, step we’re, we’re step in step with each other. I’m also super, like creative, and I’m younger. So I’m very much like, let me put a like a video on a PowerPoint, or let me do something that’s going to kind of capture a jury or capture the room in a way that’s different than just testimony, you know, oral or otherwise. But I’ve definitely over the years seen myself getting more and more confident and comfortable. You know, I’m very passionate about what I do. There’s no question about that. So, but I am not, I’m not a I’m not the most fond of public speaking. So I do get my moments of fear. But I’m okay being the role that I play, I feel like it, it helps run the show.

Chad Franzen 18:19

So do you guys are you guys are pretty kinda like work side by side. It’s not like a divide and conquer type?

Ashley Cohen 18:23

No, no, we are really side by side. I mean, we’re trying to divide and conquer a little bit. But it’s, it’s hard. It’s hard. She, you know, we just have so many cases, and we’re both kind of control freaks in our own way. So we like to be on top of things. And I have FOMO. And I don’t like to miss anything. So you know, I like to at least be there and watch it go down even if I’m not the one speaking or doing the advocating as much, you know, in the eye of everybody else in the room.

Chad Franzen 18:54

Sure. Have you have you faced some challenges, you know, as a result of being kind of a small kind of a lean operation, but but yet representing you know, the number of cases you do and the kind of the high profile type cases?

Ashley Cohen 19:08

Yes, yes, we are spread very we are spread way too thin. We have. We represent individuals in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, we have had some in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, we’re kind of all over we’re in federal court. We’re in state where we’re on the plaintiff side, we’re on defendant side, we do appeals I mean, the amount of rules that every court every judge every district everything like it’s, it’s out of this world, like how much you need to actually know. And we’re constantly just like learning new things. And it’s hard. It’s hard, not having you know, adequate, consistent support staff at all times. We do have an amazing paralegal. And we have a great associate. She’s She’s new. And you know, that’s helped. But we’re still an 80 case load or 80 to 100 cases of the of the amount that we do, because it’s like very, I mean, it’s not you’re not just walking into a criminal defense firm, and you’re having 80 cases that are all this, like, not all the same, but the procedures are the same, right? You go to the court, you do your arraignment, you do your bought, you know, pretrial motions, everything is kind of the same all with us. Everything is different, no matter what case we’re in no matter what court we’re in, everything’s different. So it’s a lot. And there’s a lot of discovery documents that we have to review at all times. And that is very time consuming, and very tedious. So we are, we do it, but it’s hard.

Chad Franzen 20:55

How has your interaction with victims of wrongful incarceration, either influenced your approach to litigation, if it has or just kind of impacted you personally.

Ashley Cohen 21:07

I, my clients are everything, to me, they are family, we are all very close. And on top of helping get them out, we, you know, we create bonds with our clients that help them once they’re out, get assistance that they wouldn’t otherwise get. I mean, people always think, Oh, you’ve been wrongly convicted. And now you’re free. Yay. No, actually, it’s actually much more difficult for people who have been wrongly convicted, because they’re not reporting to a probation officer or parole officer, they’re not required to get jobs, they don’t have the family, they’ve been in prison for 20 some odd years, they don’t know how to use a cell phone, they don’t know how to use a computer, they can’t even don’t even have a social security card, you know, all those things. And I, I specifically, make it a priority to really handle a lot of that. I I’ve always appreciated the concept of helping people reenter into society, and, you know, anything that we can do for our clients, we do and we love all of them. And they love all of us. And it’s like a family. I mean, we really are just like a close knit group. And it’s it’s nice.

Chad Franzen 22:26

That is that’s that that’s something people usually think of the difficulties of re re entering society. Is there like a standard process that you have?

Ashley Cohen 22:35

No, honestly, it’s different for every person. I mean, some people have some people do have family members who are able to help them better than others. But, you know, I’ve always kind of envisioned maybe one day setting up a nonprofit to or some sort of program to help because I feel like, it’s so needed. And it’s not just for people who were wrongly convicted. I mean, people who come out of prison in general, who, after years, I mean, even something like someone like a veteran, like people who really just are not in tune with what they need to do for themselves to get back on their feet. I’ve always found really important and my clients who have been wrongly convicted, or usually come to me for that kind of assistance.

Chad Franzen 23:20

And yet, there was one case, as I was kind of looking at your bio that stood out to me is kind of interesting. The the Shaken Baby conviction. He told me kind of how that was. That was probably right around the your first when you were first getting started. Can you tell me, actually?

Ashley Cohen 23:38

Oh, I’m sorry. What?

Chad Franzen 23:39

Yeah, just kind of about that. It was the kind of the first of its kind just tell me about that and your experience with it?

Ashley Cohen 23:46

Yeah, that was actually from a clinic. It was a postconviction innocence clinic that I did when I was in law school with a Dell Bernhard who is married to Peter Neufeld, who is the partner of Barry Scheck, and they do all the Innocence Project work. And I worked on that case in my clinic, and I mean, shaken baby syndrome. Now they’re saying the science is completely just, it’s not accurate at all. It’s, it’s, it’s sad to even think that there are people in prison for some signs, some junk science that says that shaking a baby, you know, can kill them. Not that that’s not possible, but it’s just not as prevalent or not as easy as people were making it out to seem. So that was a really interesting experience. We just, that was my that was before I was even a lawyer. That was when I was in law school. And it was, it was a good outcome. So I was happy about that.

Chad Franzen 24:42

Yeah, that’s good. How it has the how has representing high profile individuals affected the way you guys do things or do you have to try to not let that affect affect the kind of the integrity and objectives of the firm?

Ashley Cohen 25:00

So when I started working for Jenny, we were like, Let’s be cutting edge. Let’s be lawyers who are more in the media who are more, you know, because lawyers at that time were not they they kept them their lives private, they weren’t on tick tock doing all these legal, you know, all this everything now that is like fancy lawyers do. But we wanted to so, you know, we had, we had a pretty intense website, you know, there was just, there are photos of us. And it was I had an Instagram and you know, all that stuff we were doing before high profile clients came around. And then once the high profile clients came around, it seems like it I feel like we’re doing it less almost, because we’re just getting so much attention by anything, we post either positive or negative, that it’s just like, Okay, this is just like, it’s not even worth doing it anymore. But I, you know, you just get a couple of DMS or some tweets every now and again, it’s nothing crazy that I mean, people are very typically really kind and receptive and supportive of our efforts. And that’s just the best we can hope for.

Chad Franzen 26:21

So when you know, when, when somebody like Bill Cosby gets, gets exotic gets exonerated or whatever, that’s probably pretty controversial. Does that affect you? You have a number of people who are like mad.

Ashley Cohen 26:35

Yeah, I mean, we’ve definitely gotten some hate email. We’ve definitely gotten some emails that were not nice about, how could you get him out of prison and blah, blah, blah. I mean, honestly, it’s, we don’t even bother with that. We don’t even give it the time of day. I mean, he, he did not deserve to be in prison in the first place. And we’re glad that he’s out. So when we’re going to always think that and stick to that, so what other what I think I forgot who told me that’s one of my parent, my parents must have said what other people think about me is none of my business. So I don’t really care.

Chad Franzen 27:10

I’m very nice, very nice. I just have one more question for you. But first, just tell me I guess if people want to find out more about Bonjean Law Group, tell me how they can do so.

Ashley Cohen 27:18

Yeah, so we have a website,, or on Twitter at Bonjean Law Group or on Instagram at Bonjean Law. I think it’s Bonjean in Law or Bonjean Law Group, I should know that. But we’re not hard to find. Just make sure you’re looking at our real account, not a fake account that’s pretending to be us and supporting some of our clients. And we will never ask for money, so don’t send it.

Chad Franzen 27:45

Okay, so, last question for you. At the risk of putting you on the spot, do you have any any advice for aspiring attorneys who are interested in you know, helping people with wrongful convictions or with civil rights?

Ashley Cohen 27:58

Um, my advice would be if you like this work, you need to put your all into it. You can’t just be half in half out you’re not this is not a nine to five job. I answer phone calls for my clients at all times. Whenever I work 20 hour days, sometimes I work you know, I love what I do. And if you’re not going to be passionate and advocate and really feel good about it, then it’s probably not worth your time. So pick something else.

Chad Franzen 28:35

Okay. Hey, Ashley, it’s been great to talk to you. Thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.

Ashley Cohen 28:39

Thank you.

Chad Franzen 28:41

So long, everybody.

Outro 28:44

Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes, be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.


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