Staff & Board

VADP Staff

Michael Stone Portrait 2012-10-30

Michael Stone

Executive Director

Michael Stone is the Executive Director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.  Prior to this position, he worked as a Field Organizer for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  In that role, he worked with abolition organizations in Virginia, Missouri, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania

Michael has spoken about capital punishment to faith communities and other organizations across the Commonwealth.  He has also identified opponents to the death penalty among “unlikely allies” – including political conservatives and violent crime victims.

Michael also worked for 25 years in social ministry for Office of Justice & Peace for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond from 1984 to 2009.

Michael earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Economics and Urban Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.A. degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College.


Field Director

Richmond-area author Dale Brumfield is Field Director for Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He is the also the author of eight books, with the latest, titled The Virginia State Penitentiary: A Notorious History, scheduled for publication in October, 2017.

Dale’s interest in death penalty abolition dates to 2010 with the publication of a guest opinion for Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine titled Double Lifers. Since then, he has authored numerous anti-death penalty pieces for the Richmond Times- Dispatch, North of the James magazine, Richmond Magazine, the Rappahannock Review and the website

As Field Director for VADP, Dale organizes grassroots support and engages conservative, libertarian and evangelical groups on key VADP initiatives, including severe mental illness and the death penalty, among others.

Dale received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from VCU in 1981, and in 2015 returned to VCU to earn his Master of Fine Arts. He lives with his wife Susan in Doswell.

VADP Board of Directors

Mary Atwell

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.

RJ Bee

RJ Bee

RJ Bee is Senior Vice President for Operations at Hattaway Communications, where he manages day-to-day operations and leads project teams to create research-based strategies, content and campaigns for organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, World Health Organization and Packard Foundation.

Before joining Hattaway, RJ consulted for businesses, political candidates and nonprofit organizations — including the National Democratic Institute, Borrego Solar and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

RJ earned a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in political science from The Ohio State University.

Chris Braunlich

Springfield, VA

Chris Braunlich is Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. He is a former President of the Virginia State Board of Education and served as an elected member of the Fairfax County School Board for eight years.

An active Republican, Chris was Chief of Staff to Congressman John LeBoutillier, Assistant Vice President at the National Association of Manufacturers, President of the Alexis deTocqueville Institute, and Vice President of the Center for Education Reform. He serves on the board of College Access Fairfax, a non-profit helping low-income students access financial aid for college. He is Treasurer of Step Up for Virginia’s Kids, a new non-profit providing private school scholarships to low-income K-12 students.

Chris is a graduate of Hofstra University and resides in Fairfax County with his wife, Eileen. They are the parents of four grown children and grandparents to two bubbling grandchildren.

Nicholas Cote

Alexandria, VA

Nicholas Cote is the founding President of Right Way Forward Virginia, a nonpartisan libertarian advocacy organization dedicated to promoting liberty, dynamism, and equal rights. He is also currently the Director of Donor Communications for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and a former board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia. With experience and networks in libertarian and conservative politics, he is particularly interested in engaging the political “right” about alternatives to the death penalty. Nicholas graduated from Providence College in 2008 with a B.A. in political science and American studies.

Theresa Dunleavy

Theresa Dunleavy

Norfolk, VA

Born in Plymouth, England to a British mother and an American father, Theresa has lived most of her life in Norfolk, Virginia with her husband of 47 years, Tom. They have five grown children and six grandchildren.

A cradle Catholic, her commitment to peace and justice issues is directly tied to her faith. She was a founding board member of the Ecumenical Family Shelter in Norfolk and has worked as a volunteer for years with the Norfolk Catholic Worker. She currently serves on the Norfolk Environmental Commission and on the Environmental Working Group of the Tidewater Sowers of Justice.

Theresa has a master’s degree in library science and worked as a reference librarian for 31 years. Now retired, she enjoys her grandchildren, reading, knitting and helping to care for three very disobedient dachshunds and one slightly unbalanced Rottweiler.

Emma Johnston

Emma Johnston

Emma Johnston serves as the Associate Minister for Discipleship at a United Methodist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. She recently graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC and looks forward to working with VADP.

Kristina Leslie

Kristina Leslie

Kristina Leslie is an attorney with the Capital Defender Office, which exclusively represents those charged with capital murder at the trial level in Northern Virginia. Prior to that, she worked as a public defender in Baltimore City for four years.

Kristina is a graduate of Washington & Lee School of Law, and earned her B.A. in Psychology and History from Emory University. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Edward. They enjoy outdoor activities and renovating their home.

Kamyle Li

Kamyle Li

Vienna, VA

Kamyle Li is a mitigation specialist, assisting criminal defense teams representing clients charged with capital murder. Prior to becoming a mitigation specialist, she worked at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, and Equal Justice Works.

Kamyle is a graduate of Washington and Lee School of Law, where she was a law clerk at the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse. She earned her B.A with honors in Political Science and African American Studies from the University of Central Florida. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband William and their son Charlie.

Adam Northup

Adam Northup

Richmond, VA

Adam Northup has lived almost his whole life in Virginia, including college and graduate school at the University of Virginia. He has a varied background of professional experiences ranging from an outdoor experiential educator to his current position managing financials at a Fortune 500 company. Adam has worked with non-profits in development, strategic & resource planning, financial planning, analysis & accounting, and event organization roles. He has been committed to the finding alternatives to the death penalty and a supporter of VADP for many years.

Paul O'Shea

Paul O’Shea

Fairfax, VA

Paul O’Shea is a graduate of Marquette University’s college of journalism. His 40-year professional career consisted of assignments with corporations, public relations firms and financial services organizations. Following retirement, Paul began a 19-year involvement with the death penalty abolition movement — with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project and then the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty where he served as a director from 2004 to 2014. Paul joined the VADP board of directors in 2015.

Adam Northup

Carissa Phillips

Charlottesville, VA

Carissa works for Campaign Monitor, an email marketing & automation software company, where she helps businesses and nonprofits reach their audience. She’s an aspiring activist and a member of a multi-ethnic faith community in Charlottesville with her husband.

Before moving to Virginia, Carissa volunteered for four years with Big Brothers Big Sisters in their STARS program which provides mentoring to children with incarcerated parents. She worked for a Phoenix-based non-profit doing web design and later started a company to help non-profit employees communicate with their supporters.

Carissa grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended Baylor University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design in 2003.

Virginia Podboy

Virginia Podboy

President of the Board

Richmond, VA

Virginia Podboy is a Richmond native eager to provide legal services to those in the community. Virginia attended George Mason University in Fairfax graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Politics. She spent an extended semester at Oxford University’s New College, where she studied the European Union. After undergraduate studies, Virginia attended the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and graduated in 2012.

During law school Virginia interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the Appellate Division where she assisted attorneys in writing briefs and preparing oral arguments. She also clerked at Washington D.C. labor law firm Mooney, Green, Saindon, Murphy, and Welch, P.C., where she assisted attorneys preparing federal court pleadings as well as ERISA compliance oversight over several major pension and health plans. Additionally, Virginia served as Executive Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy as well as Student Bar Association Director of Communications and 3L Representative.

After graduating law school, Virginia worked for two years as a lobbyist for the Virginia Catholic Conference in the areas of poverty/public benefits, health care, housing, and criminal justice. Virginia is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking as well as spending time with her husband and their dog, Tort.

Nancy Ritter

Richmond, VA

Born and raised in the Northern Neck of Virginia, Nancy has had the good fortune to spend her entire life in Virginia. She has spent many years as a volunteer for organizations including CARITAS, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and VADP.

Nancy earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Mary Washington and completed the Education for Ministry program through Sewanee, the University of the South. She is married and has three adult children, five grandchildren, a dog and two cats.



Kent Willis

Kent Willis

Port Haywood, 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.

Adam Northup

Gerald Zerkin

Richmond, VA

Gerald Zerkin grew up in Queens, NY and Bethesda Maryland. He received his B.A. from Brandeis University in 1971, his M.A. from U.Va. in Art History in 1975 and his J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1976.

He has practiced law in Richmond since 1976, in private practice, specializing in civil rights, criminal defense, and habeas corpus, and with the Federal Public Defender, and as Capital Resource Counsel, always with an emphasis on capital cases. He represented 15 Virginia death row inmates and numerous federal capital defendants.

He has received the Harry Carrico Professionalism Award from the Criminal Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and the Thomas More Award from Boston College L.S. He is a Fellow of American College of Trial Lawyers.