Death Penalty College Faculty

Chris Adams is a criminal defense lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina. Before entering private practice in 2007, he spent fifteen years as a public defender and non-profit lawyer. He was the founding Director of the Georgia Capital Defender Office. During his four years at the helm, the Capital Defender resolved 40 cases without a single client being sentenced to death.

He graduated from Georgetown Law and received his undergraduate degree from West Georgia College.

Chris teaches at the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC), serves on the Board of Directors of the NACDL, and has taught as an adjunct law professor at Georgia State, Emory, and the Charleston School of Law.


Jean D. Barrett began her legal career as a trial attorney in the New Jersey State Public Defender’s Office over 30 years ago. Since 1983, she has been in private practice with her husband, David Ruhnke, at Ruhnke & Barrett in Montclair, New Jersey. In the course of her career, Ms. Barrett, whose practice has involved criminal trial, appellate, state post-conviction and federal habeas corpus work, has tried 11 capital murder cases, including four federal cases, to life verdicts and litigated three New Jersey state post-conviction cases which resulted in life sentences, the last as a result of the mid-litigation repeal of the death penalty by the New Jersey Legislature. Since 1995, she has been appointed as learned counsel in more than 50 federal death penalty cases by courts in 11 different federal districts and in the 8th circuit. In 2006, she joined the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, providing training, consultation and support to attorneys appointed to represent persons charged with federal capital crimes on a contract basis with the Defender Services Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Her proudest professional achievement is having been among the group of lawyers who helped prevent the execution of a single soul for the 25-year history of the post-Furman death penalty in New Jersey.


Tim Foley is a criminal defense attorney specializing in capital cases and a lecturer at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) School of Law. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Mr. Foley has represented death row inmates in California, Nevada, and Arizona. From 2004 to 2012, Mr. Foley was an Assistant Federal Defender in the Capital Habeas Unit of the Sacramento office of the Federal Defender for the Eastern District of California. From 1991 to 2004, Mr. Foley was in private practice in San Francisco. In addition to Boalt Hall, Mr. Foley has taught at the UC Davis Law School, Hastings School of Law, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. His articles on death penalty, habeas corpus, and criminal defense topics have appeared in the California Criminal Defense Practice Reporter, The Champion, CACJ Forum, Loyola Law Review, and other publications.


Jennifer Friedman has been a Deputy Public Defender in Los Angeles County for over 25 years. She is currently the Assistant Special Circumstances Coordinator and Forensic Science Coordinator for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office. She assists in the supervision of the office’s capital cases and represents clients charged with capital murder. She has tried over 140 felony jury trials many of which were sexual assaults and homicides involving complex scientific issues. She writes the expert section of the California Death Penalty Manual. She was a member of the President’s Inter-Agency Working Group on Standards, Practices and Protocols. She is a frequent lecturer on the death penalty and the use of forensic science in the courts.


Richard Jasper is a practicing criminal defense lawyer in the New York City metropolitan area. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, and New York Law School. He served as a clerk to Chief Judge Constance Baker Motley, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. He has represented over thirty death eligible clients, trying two death penalty cases to life verdicts, United States v. Mallay and United States v. Vincent Basciano. He also represented Dandeny Munoz Mosquera, who was charged with blowing up a civilian airliner in Colombia, South America, and related drug crimes. He has represented defendants in post 911 terrorist cases, racketeering, narcotics and money laundering cases. He has been a member of the faculty at the Santa Clara Death Penalty College since 2008.


Diane M. Lozano is the State Public Defender in Wyoming. She has worked on four capital cases, all of which have resulted in life or LWOP sentences. After 13 years as a trial attorney for the State of Wyoming Public Defender, she was appointed the State Public Defender in 2007 by Governor Freudenthal and then reappointed in 2011 by Governor Mead.


Michael Ogul is a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County, California. In addition to providing consulting and training support for his office, he represents clients charged with murder. He has specialized in capital and other murder cases for many years; has been the editor of the California Death Penalty Defense Manual since 2004; has served on the planning committee for the annual Capital Case Defense Seminar since 1998; has been a member of the Bryan Shechmeister Death Penalty College faculty since approximately 2000; and has given scores of presentations, and written even more articles, on a variety of topics related to criminal defense, including capital cases.


John Philipsborn has been a criminal defense lawyer for more than 30 years, and in that time has defended more than 30 persons accused of capital crimes. He has tried several death penalty cases through penalty trial, and has been involved in a number of death penalty appeals and habeas corpus cases—in both state and federal courts. John has been a regular presenter at the Monterey Death Penalty Seminar, and the Death Penalty College for many years. He also regularly gives presentations to audiences of mental health professionals and criminal defense lawyers on forensic mental health issues. His work figures in more than 80 publications, and 70 published decisions He Has been chair of CACJ’s amicus committee for 21 years.


Steve Potolsky graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1982 and began his legal career in the Miami-Dade County, Florida Public Defender’s Office. He is a past President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Miami Chapter and has served on its Board of Directors since 1992. Since entering private practice in 1990, he has specialized in death penalty defense, and has been selected by Federal District Court Judges in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, San Juan, and St. Croix, USVI to serve as counsel in potential Federal death penalty cases.

Danalynn Recer began fighting the death penalty in Texas two decades ago, working initially as an investigator and later as an attorney with the Texas Resource Center. In 1995, she moved to New Orleans to work with Clive Stafford at the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, nationally known for its aggressive and creative capital trial representation. While there, she participated in a dozen capital trials, secured life pleas for another 8 clients, and directed the Jefferson Parish Project, a consulting team that worked with the highest volume indigent defenders in Louisiana to reduce the number of death sentences there. In 2002, when Calvin Burdine was returned to Harris County (Houston, Texas) for retrial, Danalynn stepped in on a pro bono basis and founded the Gulf Region Advocacy, or “GRACE” in the process. Today, GRACE provides direct representation, consulting services, and mitigation services to indigent capital defendants, as well as training and education to capital defenders around the country. Over the past twenty years, Danalynn has participated in the defense of over one hundred capital clients in all stages of litigation in state and federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee, North Dakota, Florida, Kansas, California and Nevada. She holds a B.A., M.A. and J.D. from the University of Texas.


David A. Ruhnke, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late 1960’s, is now in his 37th year as a criminal defense attorney. He has a B.A. from Dartmouth College in English Literature and a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law where he was class valedictorian. For the first seven years of his legal career (1976-1983), Mr. Ruhnke was an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the District of New Jersey. Since 1983, he has been in private practice in partnership with his wife and frequent trial partner, Jean D. Barrett. Their law firm, Ruhnke & Barrett, has offices in New York City and Montclair, New Jersey. Mr. Ruhnke presently serves as a member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which provides hands-on assistance, training and advice to attorneys handling federal capital cases. In the course of his career, Mr. Ruhnke, whose practice involves trial and appellate work, has tried more than 100 jury trials, in state and federal courts, and argued numerous appeals, also in state and federal courts. He has tried 17 capital cases, 11 in federal court, and six in the state courts of New Jersey. 15 of those cases ended with life verdicts. Both death verdicts were later set aside. Mr. Ruhnke is on the faculty of the Santa Clara University Law School’s Death Penalty College and teaches frequently, all over the country, on the topic of defending capital cases.


Anthony Ricco is a 1981 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. He has been in private practice in New York City since 1982, concentrating on state and federal criminal defense and capital defense litigation. He is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of New York as well as the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. He has represented numerous clients in federal capital cases, and has tried two cases to a life verdict, United States v. Andre Cooper and United States v. Jelani Solomon. Since 2007, he has been a faculty member at the annual 5-day Death Penalty College conducted under the auspices of the School of Law at Santa Clara University. Mr. Ricco is also a member of the Federal Death Penalty Resource counsel Project.


Sandra (Sandy) Saberman has worked as a mitigation investigator since 1997. For many years she concentrated on post-conviction capital defense, having worked at the California Appellate Project (San Francisco), the Habeas Corpus Resource Center (San Francisco), and the Office of the State Appellate Defender – Post Conviction Unit (Chicago). She is currently working independently as a mitigation investigator on capital cases at trial and post-conviction, and has worked in state, federal, and military courts. Sandy holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and has a California Private Investigator’s license.


After graduating from UC Davis School of Law, Elisabeth Semel became a deputy public defender. In 1980, she entered private practice and, in 1983, formed the firm of Semel & Feldman. Semel has defended criminal cases in the state and federal courts with an emphasis on representation at the trial level, including homicides and capital cases. In 1997, Semel left private practice to serve as the director of the American bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project in Washington, D.C.

Semel joined the Boalt faculty in 2001, as the first director of the Death Penalty Clinic. In that capacity, Semel represents clients facing capital punishment at all stages of the proceedings in California and several states in the South. Semel and her students have filed amicus curiae briefs in death penalty cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miller-El v. Cockrell, Miller-El v. Dretke, and Snyder v. Louisiana (all dealing with race discrimination in jury selection).

Semel’s recent publications include, “Batson and the Discriminatory Use of Peremptory Challenges in the 21st Century” (with Tom Meyer) in Jurywork: Systematic Techniques (West, 2011-12 Ed.); Reflections on Justice Stevens’ Concurring Opinion in Baze v. Rees: A Fifth Gregg Justice Renounces Capital Punishment, 43 UC Davis L. Rev. 783 (2010). She has written numerous articles about criminal defense practice, including: “The Lone Star State is Not Alone in Denying Due Process to Those Who Face Execution” (1999); “Racial Injustice: Work to be Done Outside the Courtroom” (1998); “Talk to the Media About Your Client? Think Again” (with C. Sevilla, 1997) (all published in The Champion); “Breathing Life into Batson” (2003); “The Good, the Bad and the Evil: News from the Hill” (1997); and “Victims’ Rights: New Amendment to the Federal Constitution?” (1996), all published in the California Criminal Defense Practice Reporter. Beginning in 2003, Semel’s annual annotated summaries of cases dealing with Batson v. Kentucky (race or gender discrimination in jury selection) have been posted electronically and included in various criminal defense publications. Semel frequently provides commentary in the mainstream media on issues relating to the rights of individuals accused of crime, particularly those facing the death penalty.


Russell Stetler is the National Mitigation Coordinator for the federal death penalty projects. He has investigated all aspects of capital cases, both trial and postconviction, since 1980. He served as chief investigator at the California Appellate Project from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 2005, he was the director of investigation and mitigation at the New York Capital Defender Office. His publications on capital cases include articles on investigating wrongful convictions, mitigation evidence, mental health issues, and working with victims’ survivors. He is a coauthor of chapters on psychiatric issues in death penalty cases in two books on forensic mental health, as well as A Practitioner’s Guide to Representing Capital Clients with Mental Disorders and Impairments. For more than two decades, he has lectured extensively on capital defense issues at national training conferences and for the capital defense bar of more than thirty death-penalty jurisdictions around the country. He has also served as an expert witness on the development and presentation of mitigation evidence.


James Thomson began practicing law in 1978. His primary focus is on criminal litigation in complex felony cases, most notably homicide and capital cases in state and federal courts. He has represented clients in state and federal death penalty cases in California, Florida, Hawaii, Montana and the Territory of America Samoa. He has represented clients in death penalty appeals and habeas corpus litigation in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada and Tennessee. He has represented clients in death penalty clemency proceedings in Arizona and California. He has counseled with counsel, experts and investigators in hundreds of capital cases on a variety of issues. He has testified as an expert witness regarding the standard of practice applicable to criminal defense attorneys on more than ten occasions in state and federal court. He has submitted declarations to various courts on right-to-counsel issues in other capital and non-capital cases. He is a trial and post-conviction attorney with the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program funded by the Government of Mexico to provide assistance to Mexican Nationals facing the death penalty in the United States. In 1992, he co-founded the Bryan R. Shechmeister Death Penalty College, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara Law. He has been a member of the faculty of the College for the past 22 years. In 1994, he was President of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. He has contributed to the California Death Penalty Defense Manual. He has lectured on capital litigation topics throughout the United States.


Carlos Williams is the Executive Director for the Southern District of Alabama Federal Defender Organization. He is a graduate of Antioch School of Law. Upon graduation, Carlos joined Legal Services Corporation of Alabama (LSCA). As a staff attorney for Legal Services, Carlos represented clients in a variety of civil cases. While at Legal Services, he became the Director of LSCA Migrant Project assisting migrant workers advancing claims for unpaid wages. In 1983, Carlos entered private practice with the firm of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, & Turner representing clients in both civil and criminal cases in the “Alabama Black Belt.” While a member, and later a partner of that firm, he undertook the representation of clients charged in capital offenses. In 1995, Carlos joined the staff of the first Federal Defenders Office in Alabama as an Assistant Federal Defender. In 1999, he became the Executive Director.