Who we are

Sandra Babcock

Sandra Babcock

Faculty Director and Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School

Sandra Babcock is a Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School, where she is the Faculty Director and founder of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide (CDPW). Over the last thirty years she has helped defend hundreds of men and women facing execution around the world. She began her career as a staff attorney at the Texas Resource Center, where she defended persons facing execution in post-conviction proceedings for four years. Following a five-year stint as a public defender in Minneapolis, she served for six years as the founding director of the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program, a project funded by the Government of Mexico to defend Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S. In that capacity she provided litigation support to attorneys around the country, defended Mexican nationals facing execution, and represented Mexico before the International Court of Justice in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals. In 2006, she became a Clinical Professor at Northwestern Law School, where she spearheaded a ten-year project in Malawi that ultimately resulted in the release of over 250 prisoners, 150 of whom were formerly sentenced to death. She moved to Cornell Law in 2014, where she founded the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. In 2018, together with her colleagues at CDPW, she launched the Alice Project, a global movement to end extreme sentencing of women and gender non-conforming individuals. Her clinic currently represents women facing the death penalty in the United States, Malawi, and Tanzania. She has authored numerous articles, book chapters and reports on the application of the death penalty under international law. She teaches classes in international human rights, gender rights, and the death penalty. In September 2021, she received the American Bar Association’s John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award, given to one capital defender every two years whose work has improved the legal representation of persons facing the death penalty and contributed to systemic reform.

John Blume

John Blume

Director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project and Professor at Cornell Law School

John Blume is the Director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project and Professor at Cornell Law School. He is one of the foremost death penalty practitioners in the United States, with particular expertise on the application of the death penalty to individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. Internationally, he has been involved for the past four years in several projects related to improving the quality of capital defense in China. The first capital punishment clinic in China, launched by Professor Hongyao Wu of China University of Political Science and Law in 2010, is the result of an ongoing collaboration with Professor Blume. Each year, the Cornell Death Penalty Project hosts a Chinese visiting scholar who researches capital punishment, and Professor Blume has given a number of presentations regarding the current status and use of the death penalty in China.

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Assistant Director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project

Sheri Lynn Johnson is an expert on the interface of race and issues in criminal procedure, and the Assistant Director of the Cornell Death Penalty project, an initiative to foster empirical scholarship on the death penalty, which offers students an opportunity to work with practitioners on death penalty cases, and to provide information and assistance for death penalty lawyers. After her graduation from Yale Law School in 1979, Professor Johnson worked for a year in the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the New York Legal Aid Society, and then joined the Cornell Law School Faculty in 1981. Professor Johnson co-founded the Cornell Death Penalty Project in 1993. She currently teaches constitutional and criminal law, and supervises the post-conviction litigation and capital trial clinics.

Keir M. Weyble

Keir M. Weyble

Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Death Penalty Litigation at Cornell Law School

Keir M. Weyble is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Death Penalty Litigation at Cornell Law School. Before coming to Cornell, he spent twelve years as a practicing attorney based in South Carolina, where he concentrated on the litigation of capital cases in state and federal courts. He has served as counsel, co-counsel, or as a consultant at the trial, appellate, and collateral review stages in dozens of capital cases across the country, from state trial court proceedings to merits stage litigation in the Supreme Court of the United States. He is also a nationally recognized expert on federal habeas corpus law and practice, a member of the Habeas Assistance and Training Counsel Project, co-author (with John Blume) of the Federal Habeas Corpus Update, and a frequent faculty member and presenter at professional training programs related to capital cases and post-conviction practice. At Cornell Law, he teaches Trial Advocacy, seminars on Advanced Criminal Procedure: Post-Conviction Remedies and Capital Punishment Law, and co-teaches the Capital Clinics, the Juvenile Justice Clinic, and the Innocence Clinic.

Chelsea L. Halstead

Chelsea L. Halstead

Associate Director

Chelsea L. Halstead is the Associate Director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, where she oversees the center’s strategy, advocacy, and fundraising efforts. Prior to her appointment at CCDPW, Chelsea co-founded the Colibrí Center for Human Rights in Tucson, Arizona. Colibrí combines forensic science with human rights advocacy to identify the remains of people who have died in their attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border while calling attention to failed immigration policy. Chelsea helped design the organization’s innovative DNA program, which has facilitated the identification of over 200 previously unidentified human remains. Her work has been recognized in USA Today, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and other media. Chelsea holds a B.A. in Geography from the University of Arizona and an M.P.A. from Cornell University.

Delphine Lourtau

Delphine Lourtau

(on sabbatical)

Delphine Lourtau was the Executive Director of the Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, where she oversaw and coordinated the Center’s research and advocacy projects. Prior to joining the Center, she was Research Director for the Death Penalty Worldwide project, where she helped develop a groundbreaking database analyzing the death penalty through the lens of international human rights law. She has lectured widely on international law and the death penalty and has been consulted by numerous media outlets for her expertise regarding the practical application of the death penalty around the world. Her concern for fundamental rights in the criminal justice process was cemented by early experiences at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and capital criminal defense work. She has also practiced as a civil rights lawyer in the United States, representing victims of police misconduct in the war on drugs at the Chicago firm of Loevy & Loevy. Following her graduation from McGill University in Montreal with degrees in common law and civil law, she clerked for Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada and completed an LLM at New York University School of Law, where she was a Hauser Scholar. She also holds a Master’s degree from the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris.

Adrienne Larimer

Adrienne Larimer

Clinical Teaching Fellow

Adrienne Larimer

Adrienne Larimer is a Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. Before joining the Center, she was a public defender at the Office of the Ohio Public Defender in their Death Penalty Department, where for seven years, she represented individuals at all stages of Capital Litigation. Before joining the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, Adrienne spent six years as an associate attorney for a private firm. During her employment, Adrienne represented indigent adults and juveniles charged with misdemeanors and felony crimes. While a public defender, Adrienne has spoken to numerous student organizations and events about the importance of public defense work and the impact of the death penalty. Adrienne has also presented at continuing legal education seminars about building effective client relationships with individuals facing extreme sentences. Adrienne holds degrees from Capital University and Miami University of Ohio. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Ohio.

Laura Ann Douglas

Laura Ann Douglas

Database Manager

Laura Ann Douglas currently manages the Center’s Death Penalty Database and was previously the Center’s Associate Director of Research and Training. She graduated from Stanford Law School in 2017. Prior to joining the Center, she clerked for a federal district judge in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and she interned at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on a team investigating international crimes in the Central African Republic. She also worked as a public defender in Portland, Oregon, focusing on drug possession cases and policy work related to addiction as Civitas Fellow. In law school, she trained at the ACLU of Northern California, Orleans Public Defenders, and the Stanford Community Law Center. In undergrad at Indiana University, she was the Director of Women’s Affairs for the student government and helped start an organization which worked to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Oregon and California.

Randi Kepecs

Randi Kepecs

Program Coordinator

Randi Kepecs is the Program Coordinator at the Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide, where she plays a central role in strategic planning, fundraising, logistics and research.  She has worked in historic preservation at the Municipal Art Society and the Victorian Society (UK), and has created large scale fundraising events for philanthropic institutions in New York City.  Before she joined the Center on the Death Penalty, she worked as a reference librarian as well as freelance researcher for more than a decade. Prior to arriving in Ithaca in 1991, she worked at University College London in their first fundraising office.  Randi has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from New York University, and a Master’s of Library and Information Science from University of Pittsburgh. She is a proud human rights activist, as well an active community volunteer.  Randi is a recipient of the National Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History for her work on the Cayuga Heights History Project, which she co-founded.