Board

Akin Adepoju

Akin Adepoju

Chair

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 Adjunt Professor of Law, teaching Eighth Amendment and Advanced Criminal Law courses. He is the recipient of the Feinstein Public Interest Award.

Kevin Leary

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

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 has practiced criminal defense for the past 11 years. She is President of the York NAACP.
Deborah Doyle Belknap

Deborah Doyle Belknap

Deborah Doyle Belknap is an Assistant Professor of criminal justice and psychology at Keystone College in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She holds a law degree and practiced criminal and civil law before returning to graduate school for a doctorate in psychology. As a graduate student, she was involved as a researcher in the Capital Jury Project, and she is currently engaged in research on capital punishment and the mentally ill.

Tessa Bresnen

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.

Stephen Bruder

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 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 President, Red Letter Revolution, Common Prayer, Follow Me to Freedom, Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream, Becoming 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.

EmmaLeigh Kirchner

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.

Sandra L. Strauss

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 Lucas

Kathleen Lucas

Executive Director

klucas@padp.org

 

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.

Staff