Who We Are

Thank You Governor Shapiro!

Learn more about the governor's moratorium and call to abolish the death penalty

Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is the largest anti-death penalty organization in the state of Pennsylvania.

It was founded in 1997, at a time when public support for capital punishment in Pennsylvania had reached an apex and death sentences were at an all-time high. The founders of the organization successfully challenged the prevailing political paradigm, built a statewide anti-death penalty infrastructure with thousands of members, and helped to slow the momentum of pro-death penalty forces. PADP’s work was instrumental to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro declaring on February 16, 2023 a moratorium on Pennsylvania’s death penalty as well as Governor Tom Wolf moratorium eight years prior.

Today, abolitionists continue to fight for a full repeal of the death penalty in Pennsylvania!

Board of Directors

Akin Adepoju |

Akin Adepoju has served as Lead Trial Attorney and Assistant Federal Defender for the District of Delaware and the Western District of Pennsylvania, where he served in both the Trial and Capital Habeas Units. He is an advocacy and federal sentencing expert, who has litigated cases ranging from pre-indictment stages to state and federal capital trials. He has also handled cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Before joining the Federal Defenders, Akin was a J. Kirk Osborn Attorney Fellow and spent his time at the Fair Trial Initiative in North Carolina, where he worked almost exclusively on capital trial cases. Akin’s practice now focuses on complex criminal matters, including representing those sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. He is a frequent speaker and instructor in training programs for federal and state defenders on trial strategy and sentencing advocacy, persuasive legal writing, and ethics.

Akin is a cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, earned his J.D. cum laude from Rhode Island’s Roger Williams University School of Law, where he was a Dean’s Scholar and student-attorney in the Criminal Defense Clinic, and his LL.M. from Temple University School of Law as a Public Interest Scholar. He serves on the boards of several organizations and is an Adjunct Professor of Law, teaching Eighth Amendment and Advanced Criminal Law courses. He is the recipient of the Feinstein Public Interest Award.

Kevin Leary | TREASURER

Kevin is the Director of Pennsylvania for Themis Bar Review, a company dedicated to assisting students who are preparing for the Bar Examination.  He is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  During his legal education, Kevin pursued a mix of opportunities in both domestic and international arenas.  He clerked for the Federal Defender in the Western District of Pennsylvania’s Capital Habeas Unit, worked within the Ministry of European Integration for the Republic of Kosovo, was awarded with the University of Pittsburgh School of Law Community Service Award, and was the Delegate from Pitt Law at the 2013 Education Without Boarders Conference in Dubai.

While attaining his law degree, Kevin also achieved a Masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy.  His Masters Degree Capstone Project was conducted in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.  It focused on finding alternatives to the current sentencing matrix used in Pennsylvania, hoping to reduce recidivism while simultaneously reducing incarceration rates by conducting analytic risk assessments to predict potential recidivism.  Kevin has stayed engaged with the Heinz College, serving as adjunct assistant for several public policy courses including: American Politics and Policy, International Politics and Policy, and Poverty Policy.

Sandra Thompson | SECRETARY

Sandra Thompson, J.D. has worked as a deputy district attorney, deputy public defender, and a probation officer in York County. She practices civil rights and criminal defense law. Sandra was graduated from Widener University School of Law. She received her BS in  Human Resources at York College of Pennsylvania. She is the former President of the Pennsylvania State NAACP. 

Stephen Bruder

Stephen is the Policy Director for the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats, a position that he has held since December 2014. In that role he helps guide the caucus’s legislative priorities and strategy and has first hand input on policy issues of all type. Before being in his current position, he was Chief of Staff to Senator Jim Ferlo for 14 years. Senator Ferlo was the prime sponsor of death penalty moratorium and study legislation, which Stephen helped to author and try to move through the legislative process. In addition to these position he was also Executive Director for the Senate Law & Justice, Finance, and Local Government Committees.

Stephen is a Pittsburgher, Duquesne University graduate in public policy, and a proud product of the City of Pittsburgh School District.

Shane Claiborne

Shane is a founder and board member of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. He is married to Katie Jo, a North Carolina girl who also fell in love with the city (and with Shane). They were wed in St. Edwards church, the formerly abandoned cathedral into which homeless families relocated in 1995, launching the beginning of the Simple Way community and a new phase of faith-based justice making.

Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. Shane’s books include Jesus for PresidentRed Letter RevolutionCommon PrayerFollow Me to FreedomJesus, Bombs and Ice CreamBecoming the Answer to Our Prayers – and his classic The Irresistible Revolution. He has been featured in a number of films including “Another World Is Possible” and “Ordinary Radicals.” His books are translated into more than a dozen languages. Shane speaks over 100 times a year, nationally and internationally.

Tessa Bresnen

Tessa is a market research and project manager with over ten years of experience in digital media and advertising. She portrays the passion and guts to get the job done with imagination and humor. She is excited to be a part of PADP with strong leaders looking to make a difference.

Vicki Schieber

Vicki Schieber is a speaker, writer, and ambassador for Catholic Mobilizing Network, co-founder of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, and is a noted advocate for death penalty repeal.

Vicki Schieber’s daughter, Shannon, was raped and murdered on May 7, 1998 while finishing her first year of graduate school on a full scholarship at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Since this tragic incident, Vicki and her husband, Sylvester, have dedicated their career and lives to a moratorium on the death penalty.

Vicki has taught occasional high school and university classes on abolition, has conducted workshops for state conferences, and served on the 2008 Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment. Vicki is a co-editor of Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty and Redemption and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Restorative Justice.

Vicki is the recipient of the Fannie Mae Foundation Good Neighbor Award, the Courage in Community Award of the McAuley Institute Board of Trustees and the Exceptional Community Spirit Award from Rebuilding Together of Washington, D.C. She was named Abolitionist of the Year in 2011 by the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Despite her tragic loss, she does all this in the name of Catholicism, citing that “The death penalty is against our religion, a belief system in which life is held to be sacred.”

EmmaLeigh Kirchner

EmmaLeigh Kirchner, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA. She earned a BS and MS degree in Administration of Justice from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and her PhD in Criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. EmmaLeigh has taught numerous classes on the criminal justice system, but enjoys focusing on research methods and the incarcerated. She prefers to introduce her students, the future leaders and reformers of the justice system to uncomfortable topics, such as alternatives to the death penalty to help them form more educated opinions. EmmaLeigh has a passion for conducting research and is happy to add her research methodology skills to the board to bring about change on the death penalty.

Ben Waxman

Ben Waxman is a long-time social justice actvisit who has been active in the struggle to end the death penalty since high school. He served on the board of Pa Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, the forrunner to PADP.  Ben previously worked as a journalist as well as in government, most recently serving as the Director of Communications for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Ben is the owner of A. Waxman & Company, a progressive public affairs consulting firm.

Marshall Dayan | CHAIR

Marshall Dayan was born in Miami, Florida, and raised in Macon, Georgia. He was awarded a B.A. degree from the University of Georgia, and received his J.D. in 1986 from Antioch School of Law.

Dayan has been actively involved in the anti-death penalty movement since 1981, and representing those charged with or convicted of capital crimes since 1986. He was a staff attorney with the North Carolina Resource Center for seven years, and an assistant
appellate defender for the State of North Carolina for three years. In August, 2001, he became an Assistant Professor of Law at North Carolina Central University School of Law.

In June, 2006, Dayan became State Strategies Coordinator of the national ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project in Durham, N.C. After a year with the ACLU-CPP, Dayan joined the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender’s Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he serves as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. He is also an adjunct professor at Pitt Law School, where he teaches a capital punishment law class. Dayan has had published several law review articles on the death penalty in various journals, and has also written several pieces on capital litigation for The Champion, the magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
He has served as Chair of the Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, as President of the NC-based People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, and as Vice-Chair of the Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism, a national policy-making
board for the Union of Reform Judaism.

He also served as Co-Chair of the board of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and continues to serve on its board of directors. He served as President of the Pittsburgh chapter of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and is active in the Jewish community, having served as President of the board of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee. He also serves on the Executive Board of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Cheswick, PA.

Stephany Dugan

Stephany Dugan is a communications professional with more than two decades of in-depth career experience developing and executing integrated communications strategies using a multi-platform media model. Namely, she spent 13 years working under the state’s Capitol dome specializing in legislative communications for members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Currently, Stephany is the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. She was inspired at a young age to advocate for what is socially just through the political activism of her father and influenced by the life led by her grandmother, beginning with putting herself through college in the 1920s and becoming a beloved educator.

Stephany has served alongside fellow death penalty abolitionists as a member of the Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty’s board of directors since 2018.

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Sandra L. Strauss

The Reverend Sandra L. Strauss (Sandy) joined the staff of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches in April 2004. As Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach for the Council, Sandy’s responsibilities are to inform, educate, and empower people of faith on significant public issues, facilitate the work of common ministry and ecumenical relationships, manage external communications, and organize and manage Council events.

Sandy received her Master of Divinity degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary and is ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She also holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy Studies from Duke University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Music from the Lindenwood Colleges (St. Charles, MO). She lives in Harrisburg with her husband, David Arnold, a handyman and clockmaker who does many things, but especially miraculous things with wood. Together they have reclaimed a city property on the block behind them for Dave’s clock and watch repair shop, a woodshop, a prolific garden, and a home for tens of thousands of bees.



Kathleen has been active in human rights work for over 30 years with organizations including Amnesty International, NAACP and the Pennsylvania Prison Society. Her professional background is in organization development and training in both the corporate and nonprofit environment. She earned both her B.S. and M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and later studied Cognitive Psychology at Rutgers University.

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