Maureen Kelleher: biography



My father graduated The U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1942. Years later he returned to "The Point" where he taught the cadets. I was born at West Point in the spring of 1959, the eighth of eight daughters of Mary Jo and Jim Kelleher.

I grew up in Fort Bragg, NC and Fayetteville, NC. Then I moved around to Colorado, Texas, and California.
I ended up in Florida where I attended high school and college. I graduated the University of Florida in 1982
with a BA in philosophy.

After college, I turned down a Peace Corps assignment and moved instead to New Orleans where I held a number of odd jobs: painter of houses, painter of fences, fry cook, secretary, typesetter, house mother to the mentally retarded, social worker. Throughout those years, I also did activist work with an Amnesty International case [FREE GARY TYLER] based out of Destrehan, Louisiana (a town about 20 miles up the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans; Gary's home is right on the other side of N.O. int'l airport -- a mere 10 minutes away). By great fortune, I was trained to be a private investigator. I focused on post-conviction habeas work, fact investigation, i.e., I work with attorneys who represent men on death row.

I never left New Orleans on an evacuation order prior to Katrina in 2005. In 2001, when one million-plus citizens left The Crescent City per the mayor's order, I hunkered down in my apartment, lit candles, ate nuts, and read David Leeming's biography of James Baldwin. That decision to not evacuate, but instead to stay put and read a book, was responsible for me becoming an artist. I emerged 36 hours later from my makeshift bunker with an idea for an art piece, an idea born in the words Baldwin wrote to his brother about racism. I juxtaposed Baldwin's advice to his brother with the only piece of advice my father ever gave me. That idea became my piece JAMES, and then the creative floodgate opened wide. On 8/29/05 I evacuated from New Orleans, about 12 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit. Five days later I drove into Hoboken, NJ and have been here ever since. I'm a Yankee returned home.

I've worked -- 15 years -- capital cases where there was no DNA to rush in and save the day, so I'd go out, looking for new information, via ear - and eyewitnesses. I helped to exonerate Curtis Kyles off Louisiana death row, freed Feb 1998. I also found new witnesses (ear- and eye-) in John Thompson's case; JT exonerated 5.9.03, after 18 yrs on Louisiana death row. And at the trial level, I helped prevent a lot of innocent men from being shipped off to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, LA.

Winter, 2015: Yes, I'm still an investigator. I work the entire range of cases, from purse snatchings to rape to murder.

Fall 2017/winter 2018: Still an investigator with Legal Aid Society, Manhattan criminal division-- defending the poor, downtrodden, and sometimes overlooked. Legal Aid rocks !

Be gracious. Make art. Save a life. I dare me.