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Board of Advisors

Robert Blecker

Professor of Law: New York Law School

A nationally known retributivist advocate of the death penalty, Robert makes the case that society is morally obliged to execute the "worst of the worst" criminals. His latest book, "The Death of Punishment," deals with searching for justice among the worst of the worst.

Richard C. Dieter

Executive Director: Death Penalty Information Center

Richard C. Dieter received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame. Since 1992, Richard has served as the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) in Washington, D.C. and is an Adjunct Professor at the Catholic University School of Law.

Richard has authored more than 20 reports on the death penalty that have been widely cited by journalists, the U.S. Congress, and state legislators. DPIC is a key source of information to the media on all aspects of the death penalty in the U.S. Mr. Dieter is a frequent guest on national television and radio news programs and is quoted regularly in the nation’s newspapers. Mr. Dieter’s latest publication is "The 2 percent Death Penalty: How a Minority of Counties Produce Most Death Cases at Enormous Costs to All" [2013].

Ben Jealous

Senior Fellow: Center for American Progress

Ben Jealous is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, a partner at Kapor Capital, an Oakland-based firm that leverages the technology sector to create progressive social change, and the former President and CEO of the NAACP.

Jealous began his career in 1991 as a community organizer in Harlem with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Elected to lead the NAACP in 2008, Jealous spent his tenure focused on the organization on voting rights and criminal justice reform, and oversaw the launch of national programs on education, health, and environmental justice. A Columbia University and Oxford University graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, Jealous served as the President of the Rosenberg Foundation and was the founding director of Amnesty International’s U.S. Human Rights Program. He is also a past Board Member of the California Endowment for the Humanities. In 2010, Jealous was named one of Time’s “40 Under 40” rising stars of American politics and was recently designated as a young global leader by the World Economic Forum.

As a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, he tracks political trends that affect civil and human rights. Jealous also helps develop policy solutions that ensure equity and opportunity for all Americans.

Robert Johnson

Professor, Justice, Law, and Criminology: American University

Robert Johnson is a professor of justice, law, and criminology at American University, editor and publisher of BleakHouse Publishing, and an award-winning author of books and articles on crime and punishment, including works of social science, law, poetry, and fiction. He has testified and provided expert affidavits on capital and other criminal cases in many venues, including the U.S. state and federal courts, the U.S. Congress, and the European Commission of Human Rights. He is best known for his book, "Death Work: A Study of the Modern Execution Process," which won the Outstanding Book Award of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Johnson is a Distinguished Alumnus of the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, and State University of New York.

Daniel LaChance

Assistant Professor of History: Emory University

Daniel LaChance is a member of the Department of History at Emory University. His work examines the sources, meanings, and effects of the “punitive turn” in the United States; the ratcheting up of incarceration in the late 20th century. His articles have appeared in the journals "Law and Social Inquiry and Punishment and Society." In 2011, his dissertation, “Condemned to Be Free: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States, 1945-Present” won the University of Minnesota’s Best Dissertation Award in the Arts and Humanities and was one of two finalists for the Distinguished Dissertation Award given by the National Council of Graduate Schools. This work, being revised for publication as a book by the University of Chicago Press, examines the decline of the American death penalty post World War II, its revival in the 1970s, and its subsequent use over the past thirty years. LaChance argues that shifting ideas about freedom are embedded in the way that Americans talk about and use capital punishment. LaChance earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota.

Larry Marshall

Professor of Law: Stanford Law School

Professor Marshall is a recognized expert in Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, a field in which he has researched and taught for more than two decades. A nationally renowned advocate for reform of the U.S. criminal justice system, Professor Lawrence Marshall has been widely recognized for his lawyering, activism and teaching.

Much of his scholarly and legal work has focused on issues surrounding appellate practice, criminal law, wrongful convictions, and application of the death penalty. Marshall has frequently served as an expert consultant and witness on an array of matters pertaining to lawyers’ responsibilities. From 2005-2013, Professor Marshall served as Associate Dean of Clinical Education and as the David and Stephanie Mills Director of the Mills Legal Clinic.

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 2005, he was a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law and of counsel at Mayer, Brown & Platt. At Northwestern, he co-founded and served as Legal Director of the world-renowned Center on Wrongful Convictions, where he represented many wrongly convicted inmates, including many inmates who at one time had been sentenced to death. Early in his career, he clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Marc Mauer

Executive Director: The Sentencing Project

Marc Mauer is one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, race, and the criminal justice system. He has directed programs on criminal justice policy reform for 30 years, and is the author of some of the most widely-cited reports and publications in the field. His 1995 report on racial disparity and the criminal justice system led the New York Times to editorialize that the report “should set off alarm bells from the White House to city halls – and help reverse the notion that we can incarcerate our way out of fundamental social problems.”

"Race to Incarcerate," Mauer’s groundbreaking book on how sentencing policies led to the explosive expansion of the U.S. prison population, was a semifinalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 1999. A 2013 graphic novel version was cited by the American Library Association as one of the “Great Graphic Novels” of the year. Mauer is also the co-editor of Invisible Punishment, a 2002 collection of essays by prominent criminal justice experts on the social cost of imprisonment.

Sister Helen Prejean

Author: “Dead Man Walking”

Sister Helen Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981, dedicating her life to the poor of New Orleans. She became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. Upon Sonnier’s request, she served as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the Louisiana execution process. Sisten Helen has witnessed five executions.

Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book that made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List.  "Dead Man Walking" was number one on the NY Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks. It has also been translated into ten different languages. In 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture, receiving four Oscar nominations.

Sr. Helen’s second book, "The Death of Innocents," was published in 2004. She tells the story of two men, Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O’Dell, whom she accompanied to their executions. She believes both were innocent. She takes the reader through all the evidence, including evidence the juries never heard either due to counsel’s incompetence or to the rigid formalities of court procedure. Sr. Helen examines how flaws inextricably entwined in the death penalty system lead to innocent people being executed and render the system unworkable.

Today, Sister Helen educates the public about the death penalty by lecturing, organizing, and writing. As the Founder of Survive, a victim’s advocacy group, she continues to counsel death row inmates as well as the families of murder victims. 

Austin Sarat

Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science: Amherst College

Austin Sarat is the Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College and Hugo L. Black Visiting Senior Scholar at the University of Alabama School of Law. Professor Sarat is a pioneer in the development of legal study in the liberal arts, of the humanistic study of law, and of the cultural study of law. He is an internationally renown scholar of capital punishment, specializing in efforts to understand its social, political, and cultural significance in the U.S.

Professor Sarat Founded both Amherst College’s Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought and the national scholarly association, The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. He has served as President of The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, the Law and Society Association, and the Consortium of Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs. Professor Sarat is the author and/or editor of more than 90 books including "The Killing State: Capital Punishment in Law, Politics, and Culture" and "When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American."

Karl Shoemaker

Department of History: University of Wisconsin

Karl Shoemaker is an interdisciplinary legal scholar whose research focuses on legal history. He also has a strong interest in historical and philosophical developments in criminal law and punishment. He teaches courses in legal history and the history of punishment, and an undergraduate criminal justice course. He has regularly participated in legal history research projects and conferences sponsored by the Max-Planck-Insituts für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Istituto di storia del diritto italiano, and the Conseil de la Région Languedoc-Roussilon.

Karl has published articles in journals such as the Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte and the Cumberland Law Review, among others, as well as a chapter in Pain, Death, and the Law (University of Michigan Press, 2001). He has served as an associate editor of the California Supreme Court Historical Society Journal. Professor Shoemaker also holds an appointment in the University of Wisconsin’s History Department, teaches in the Legal Studies major, and has affiliate appointments in Religious Studies and Medieval Studies.