Meet Our Board
Nate Fields, Board Chair
Nathson “Nate” Fields spent twenty years in prison, including 11 on death row, for a crime he did not commit. The judge in his case, Thomas J. Maloney, took a $10,000 bribe and went to prison for 13 years. Nate's conviction was overturned when the corruption was uncovered. He received a new trial and was acquitted of all charges on April 8, 2009. Since joining Witness to Innocence, Nate has been a loyal member and effective leader in the anti-death penalty movement. He is currently serving as the Chair of the WTI Federal Compensation Campaign. More recently, he has attracted positive attention to WTI by speaking engagements around the country and an appearance on Al Jazeera to discuss innocence and the death penalty.
Saundra Westervelt, Board Vice Chair
Saundra Westervelt is Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has published three books and numerous research articles, most of which focus on issues related to wrongful convictions. Her recent book, with co-author and friend Kimberly Cook, is Life after Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity (released by Rutgers University Press, September 2012), which examines the post-exoneration struggles of eighteen death row exonerees, many of whom are active members of Witness to Innocence. Their hope is that this book will bring significant attention to the continuing trauma so often caused by a wrongful conviction. You can purchase the book here. She has served on the WTI board since November 2011.
Richard C. Dieter, Treasurer
Richard C. Dieter received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was named a Public Interest Law Scholar. He served as the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. from 1992 until 2015. He authored 40 reports on the death penalty that have been widely cited in the national media and utilized at all levels of state and national government, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Dieter has been a frequent guest on national television and radio news programs and has been widely quoted in the nation’s newspapers. Mr. Dieter’s most recent publication, Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty (2015), received the Congressional Black Caucus’s Veterans Braintrust Award. He is currently the Principal Consultant at RDieter Communications. Mr. Dieter served as an Adjunct Professor at the Catholic University School of Law for 14 years. He was a founder of the Pre-Trial Release Program at the Community for Creative Non-violence in Washington and the co-founder of the Alderson Hospitality House in West Virginia for visitors to the country’s main federal women’s prison. Mr. Dieter recently received the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights in 2016. Richard joined the WTI board in August 2016.
Mahalia Tibbs, Board Secretary
Kwame Kamau Ajamu (formerly known as Ronnie Bridgeman) is fifty-eight years old and resides in Richfield Ohio with LaShawn, his wife of twelve years. He was wrongfully convicted and spent twenty-eight years in prison - three of which were on death row - for the murder of a money order salesman in Cleveland Ohio in 1975, and was exonerated in December of 2014. Kwame hopes that no one else has to endure what he has endured. Since his exoneration Kwame has become solely focused on abolishing the death penalty all over the world, and he has devoted his time and energy going across the United States speaking against the death penalty. Kwame joined the WTI board in August 2016. To learn more about his exoneration story click here.
Judi Caruso is a criminal defense lawyer and social justice advocate, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1997, inspired and energized by a presentation by the late Randal Dale Adams, Judi became intensively involved in the New Mexico death penalty abolition movement. During the twelve-year campaign, she served as a Steering, Government, and Faith Committee member of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, as Outreach Coordinator for Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation-NM, and as an expert advisor to the repeal bill sponsor, Representative Gail Chasey. Between 2004 and the present, Judi has expanded her abolition work nationally and internationally, primarily as event and media coordinator for her partner Juan Melendez, former Witness to Innocence board member and exonerated death row survivor. In this capacity, Judi has organized and participated in hundreds of speaking engagements throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. As a fluent Spanish and French speaker, she is frequently called upon by Spanish and French-language media to address death penalty issues. Judi was elected to the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2004 and served in this capacity until 2008.
Gary Drinkard survived almost eight years in prison in Alabama, five of which were spent on death row for a crime he did not commit. He is now a valued member of the Witness to Innocence Speakers Bureau, and speaks to organizations and colleges throughout the South and the rest of the country. Gary and fellow board member Shujaa Graham were honored guest speakers at Dr. Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in September 2011, to rally against the impending execution of Troy Davis. He resides in Vinemont, Alabama.
As a Career Link Specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Cheryl acted as liaison between employers and ex-offenders seeking employment and training. She successfully created and facilitated a series of workshops that provided guidance in addressing a criminal background on a resume, in an interview and in the workplace. An active member of Witness to Innocence since 2007, Cheryl has been an outspoken advocate for members, co-authoring the Witness to Innocence Members Bill of Rights with her partner, a founding member of Witness to Innocence Ray Krone.
Russell Neufeld is a civil rights and death penalty attorney, with a long history of defending the rights of prisoners and other people struggling against injustice in our society. As the former Attorney-in-Charge of the Capital Division for the Legal Aid Society in New York City, Russell conceived, created, and led a citywide office to represent clients facing the death penalty in state and federal courts. Russell has published numerous articles on the death penalty and frequently lectures on capital punishment in the United States and around the world.
Sabrina Butler-Porter is one of only two women exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973. She was a Mississippi teenager who was convicted of murder and child abuse in the death of her nine-month-old son, Walter. On December 17, 1995, Sabrina was exonerated after spending more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row. Sabrina now lives in Memphis and is blessed with three thriving children. She is committed to the abolition of the death penalty and speaks as often as she can to the public and media about her story which you can read more about here. She joined the WTI board in January 2017.
Rob Warden is executive director emeritus and co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and a founding director of the Innocence Network, an international affiliation of organizations providing pro bono legal services to convicted men and women with claims of actual innocence. During his 16-year tenure, the CWC was instrumental in exonerating 31 wrongfully convicted men and women in Illinois. Before joining Northwestern, Rob was editor and publisher of the legal affair monthly Chicago Lawyer, where his investigations into wrongful convictions in Illinois capital cases launched a movement that culminated in abolition of the Illinois death penalty in 2011. His reporting at Chicago Lawyer was instrumental in 13 exonerations, including that of Gary Dotson, the nation’s first prisoner to be exonerated by DNA. Rob joined the WTI board in August 2016.