Staff & Board

VADP Staff

Stephen Northup, Esq.

Executive Director

Steve is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1974 graduate of Harvard Law School. He is a retired partner from the Richmond office of Troutman Sanders LLP where he practiced law for 35 years. . During his legal career, Steve has represented a number of prisoners in post-conviction challenges to their convictions and sentences, including two inmates on Virginia’s death row. Steve and his wife Wendy Bauers Northup live outside Ashland, VA.

Matt Sellman

Matt Sellman

Associate Director

Matt grew up in Vienna, VA and is a 1999 graduate of James Madison University with a BA from the School of Media, Arts, and Design.  After graduating, he worked as a media analyst at UVA’s Miller Center for their Presidential Recordings Project.  Matt continued his work in media production in San Francisco, CA for several years before returning to Virginia.  Matt joined VADP on January 1, 2008.  He lives near Charlottesville, VA.

VADP Board of Directors

Mary Atwell

Roanoke, VA

Mary Atwell is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University where she also chairs the Criminal Justice department.  A Virginia citizen since 1972, Mary grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Webster College and Saint Louis University.  Much of her research has involved topics related to capital punishment and she has published Evolving Standards of Decency:  Popular Culture and Capital Punishment (2004) and Wretched Sisters:  Examining Gender and Capital Punishment (2007).  She is at work on a revised edition of Wretched Sisters and on a study of the execution of foreign nationals in the United States.

Mary served on the board of VADP from 2003 to 2008.  She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley and of Bethany Hall, a residential drug treatment center for women in Roanoke.

Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban

Charlottesville, VA

Helena is the owner of Just World Books, a small book-publishing company headquartered in Charlottesville.  Previously, she was a writer, researcher and program organizer on global affairs.  She had a long relationship with The Christian Science Monitor.  She worked as a Beirut-based regional correspondent for the paper during 1976-81, and contributed a regular column on Middle Eastern and other global issues to it during 1990-2007.  She has written for many other outlets, including the Sunday Times (London), The Nation (New York), Foreign Policy.com, the BBC, and Boston Review, where she is a Contributing Editor.  Four of the seven books she has published since 1984 have been on different aspects of the Arab-Israeli issue, and one has been on retributive versus restorative justice.  Since 2003, she has published the well-regarded blog on international affairs, “Just World News.”  She was a co-director of Search for Common Ground’s Middle East Initiative, 1991-92.  Ms. Cobban is a member of Charlottesville Friends Meeting.  She speaks French and Arabic.  She is married to UVA professor William B. Quandt and has three adult children.

Matthew Engle, Esq.

Matthew Engle, Esq.

President of the Board

Charlottesville, VA

Matt Engle is the legal director of the UVA Law School’s Innocence Project Clinic (pictured far left).  As the clinic’s legal director, Matt helps students identify innocence cases and works with students to represent the wrongfully convicted.  Before arriving at UVA, Matt worked at the Office of the Virginia Capital Defender, a public defender office that specializes in capital murder cases.  At the Office of the Capital Defender, he represented indigent clients facing potential death sentences in trial courts throughout northern Virginia and on appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.  Matt, a Cleveland native, graduated from Washington and Lee School of Law in 2001.  Afterward, he worked in Charlottesville at the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, where he represented Virginia death row inmates in state and federal habeas corpus litigation, appeals and clemency proceedings.

Dr. Gregory Gelburd

Dr. Gregory Gelburd

Charlottesville, VA

Dr. Greg Gelburd was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and grew up on the Jersey Shore. He attended Wake Forest University, received an MS from University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and D.O. from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Greg moved to Greensboro, North Carolina where he did his residency in family medicine at Moses Cone Hospital. He then practiced in a Community Health Center in Bertie County (2nd poorest county in the state) for four years. Since 1989, Greg has practiced in Charlottesville, VA and for the last eight years in a community oriented office with a sliding scale.

Greg has taken 26 medical trips to Honduras over past 16 years, 4 medical trips to Haiti in the past 2 years, and 4 medical trips to Gulf Coast  after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008 he began a program called Vwazen Nou, “Our Neighbor” to feed children in Port au Prince, Haiti. He has been a member of 6 nonprofit boards over last 25 years, and is present member of The Bridge, a prison ministry in Charlottesville, VA. He also tutors neighborhood children in grade school.

Greg is married to Kathy Clark Gelburd, an optometrist, and is the father of 5 daughters, ages 19-25. He is has been a member of Christ Community Church for 20 years.

Jerry Givens

Jerry Givens

Richmond, VA

Jerry Givens: Jerry worked for the Virginia Department of Corrections for 25 years.  From 1982 – 1999 he also served as the chief executioner for the Commonwealth during which time 62 executions took place.  Since his time with the DOC, Jerry has become an outspoken advocate for abolition of the death penalty and is currently writing a book about his experiences, “Another Day is My Promise”.  He is an active member of Cedar Street Church in Richmond and is a truck driver at LS Lee Inc.

Michael Hash

Michael Hash

Culpeper, VA

“I was a juvenile at the time of the crime, so I wasn’t given the death penalty, but it could have easily gone a different way.  I was falsely convicted and I can tell you, the only hope an innocent man has in prison is that the truth will come out some day.  That is why I’m proud to join the Board of VADP and why you should support their work – because I know they are fighting for justice.  How can there be justice when there is an irreversible penalty?  Government doesn’t always get it right; I’m living proof of that.”  - Michael W. Hash, 2013

Phylissa Mitchell

Phylissa Mitchell

Keswick, VA

Phylissa Mitchell is a native of Charlottesville, Va., a graduate of the University of Virginia and Washington & Lee University School of Law.  She spent most of her professional life in journalism producing television news and writing for small community newspapers.  For the past decade she has taught journalism skills and First Amendment law at Washington & Lee, West Virginia University, and in Ukraine as a Fulbright Scholar in law.

Beth Panilaitis

Beth Panilaitis

Richmond, VA

Beth Panilaitis earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Social Work with a concentration in policy from the University of Connecticut.  From 2008-2010 she served as the Executive Director of VADP which included conducting statewide public education on the death penalty, organizational oversight, development, serving as spokesperson and media contact and serving as the organization’s lobbyist in the General Assembly.  She was also an Advisory Board member of the Dreams Project of Witness to Innocence to examine how to provide better supports for death row exonerees.

Beth currently serves as the Executive Director of ROSMY, a Richmond based nonprofit that provides support groups to LGBT youth in Richmond and Charlottesville and conducts trainings for human services providers throughout Central Virginia on working with LBGT young people.  Beth’s policy and direct service experience has included working with homeless individuals and families, “at-risk” youth, incarcerated individuals, and individuals who are dually diagnosed.  She has a long history within the Episcopal Church including helping to found the VCU Episcopal Campus Ministry, serving on the Episcopal national Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism from 2003-2009 and serving as an elected deputy to the Episcopal National General Convention from 200-2006.

Linell Patterson

Linell Patterson

Harrisonburg, VA

Linell became involved in the fight against the death penalty in late 2001 after her father and step-mother were murdered by her step-brother and some of his acquaintances, and her cousin was killed in the terrorist attacks on  9/11, a few days later.  Her definitions of justice and healing did not match those of the press or the court system. To think that yet another person would die and another family would suffer was haunting, and was something she and her sister wanted no part in.  To them, death does not equal justice and does not promote healing; nor will it honor the ones they lost.

Since then, Linell has spoken in the legislature against the death penalty, and at events to support moratoriums, and the abolition of the death penalty.

Linell is a RN on the oncology unit at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.  She received both her social work and nursing degree from Eastern Mennonite University.   Linell currently lives in Harrisonburg, VA with her husband, Daniel, and their dog, Katy.

 

Rev. Lauren Cogswell Ramseur

Rev. Lauren Cogswell Ramseur

Norfolk, VA

Lauren is a 1996 graduate of James Madison University with a BA in Interdisciplinary Social Science and a 2000 graduate of Candler School of Theiology of Emory University with a Masters of Divinity.  She was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in November of 2000.

She became deeply involved in the anti-death penalty movement while serving as a pastor at the Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA where she organized to end the death penalty and led the vigils at the state capital when executions were scheduled.  She provided pastoral care for five years for men on death row, including accompanying Jack Alderman and Curtis Osborne through their death watch and exeution.  She also served on the board of directors for New Hope House, a ministry to people on Georgia’s death row and their familis.  Following that work, she became engaged in the field of restorative justice, and became a victim outreach specialist, working with family members of victims in death penalty cases.  She served as the Project Coordinator for the Council for Restorative Justice and assisted in the training of defense attorneys and victim outreach specialists in the work of Defense Initiated Victim Outreach (DIVO).  She has served a s a victim outreach specialist on death penalty cases in Georgia, Florida and Virginia.

Lauren is currently serving as the Interim Pastor at Lynn haven Colony Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Virginia Beach.  She also serves on the leadership team for Virginia Organizing, South Hampton Roads Chapter.  She is married to Doug Ramseur, the Capital Defender for Southeastern Virginia.  They live in Norfolk, VA and have one child.

Meghan Shapiro, Esq.

Meghan Shapiro, Esq.

Alexandria, VA

Meghan is a solo criminal defense attorney in Alexandria Virginia, and a former Deputy Capital Defender for the Northern Virginia Capital Defender Officer.  The majority of her law practice is devoted to capital defense work, including challenges to Virginia’s methods of execution.  Prior to working for the Capital Defender, Meghan clerked for the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema, Federal District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, in Alexandria.

Meghan received her J.D. in 2009 from the University of Texas School of Law, where she studied at the school’s Capital Punishment Center and worked for a number of career capital litigators in Texas, Alabama, Philadelphia, and Richmond.  She has published a handful of pieces on capital punishment law, including in the American Journal of Criminal Law.  A native Virginian, she is proud to be back and fighting on behalf of indigent men and women facing the death penalty in her home state, but dismayed by the shortcomings of Virginia’s criminal justice system that so often crystalize during capital proceedings.

Kent Willis

Kent Willis

Arlington, VA

Born and raised in Virginia, Kent is a 1971 graduate of William and Mary with an AB in philosophy.  He worked in Richmond as an advocate for progressive issues for nearly 40 years, first for environmental reform (Bay Committee) and later for the rights of persons with disabilities (Goodwill Industries) and racial fairness in housing (Housing Opportunities Made Equal, where he was executive director for five of his ten years with the organization).   From 1987 to 2012, Kent was employed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the last 23 years as executive director.  At the ACLU, Kent helped to establish Virginians to Abolish the Death Penalty, VADP’s predecessor that formed in the late 1980s.  In 1998, he secured a grant to produce the first comprehensive study of the death penalty in Virginia, Unequal, Unfair and Irreversible, which was followed by Broken Justice, a second critique of the death penalty by the ACLU.   Importantly, the ACLU recognized VADP as the state’s preeminent voice for death penalty reform and provided free office space and clerical support for its Richmond operations for nearly ten years as a means of advancing the shared objectives of the two organizations.

 

Kent has been married to Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, since 1984.  He has two step-daughters and six grandchildren.