Board of Directors
Melinda Elkins-Dawson, Chair
Melinda is the Board Chair. Her personal experience with Ohio’s death penalty and wrongful conviction led her to action. Melinda’s mother, Judith Johnson, was murdered in 1998. Melinda spent the next eight years working to prove the innocence of her then-husband Clarence Elkins. Melinda’s family began to move forward with their lives in 2008 when the true culprit was brought to justice. Her exhaustive work, and that of the Ohio Innocence Project, led to the exoneration of Clarence Elkins in 2005.
Charles E. Keith, Vice-Chair
Charles has been an advocate for change for over 20 years. He has dedicated his life to educating others about the death penalty. Charles lost one brother to homicide and another to wrongful conviction. His brother Durant was murdered in 1998. His brother Kevin was sentenced to death in 1994 for a crime he did not commit. Though Kevin’s death sentence was commuted in 2010, Charles is still fighting to free him from prison.
The Rev. Dr. Mendle Adams
Mendle is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ with degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University, Christian Theological Seminary, Aquinas College and Harvard University. He received his doctorate of sacred letters from Temple Bible College & Seminary of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mendle has pastored churches in Indiana, North Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Ohio. While serving as Ecumenical Campus Minister at Oklahoma State University, professor Adams received training and certification from the Supreme Court of Oklahoma for training of Mediators for the Oklahoma Justice System. His ministries have included travels to Palestine/Israel, The Philippines, Nicaragua, and the Ukraine. He is a published co-author of the text book Touching Center: Adventures in Christ Consciousness.
Jon Paul Rion, Esq.
Jon Paul is an attorney in Dayton. He is president of Rion, Rion & Rion, L.P.A., Inc., a three-generation criminal defense firm founded in 1938 by his grandfather. Jon Paul has tried cases in 27 states and hundreds of felony trials, including death penalty cases. His work garners his law firm of seven attorneys a national reputation. He is a lifetime member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers who is board certified in the field of criminal law and a fellow of the American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Stacy K. Parker
Stacy is a professor at Muskingum University where she teaches in the criminal justice department. She focuses extensively in the area of courts and corrections, including an extremely popular course called Death Penalty. Professor Parker has presented papers on the death penalty, student attitudes about campus police, homicide, and clemency at national conferences of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and the American Society of Criminology. She is recognized for her outstanding teaching skills as well as her significant research projects. Prior to academia, she worked as a prosecuting attorney in West Virginia and Ohio counties.
Professor Parker earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. She earned her law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law. She also holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Margery M. Koosed
Margery M. Koosed is the Aileen McMurray Trusler Professor Emeritus at The University of Akron School of Law. Her writing focuses on death penalty litigation issues. She teaches Criminal Law, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, and seminars in criminal process, capital punishment litigation and mistaken convictions.
Professor Koosed received her B.S., cum laude, from Miami University and J.D. from Case Western Reserve University. A member of the Akron Law faculty since 1974, she served initially as a Lecturer in Law and Coordinator of the Appellate Review/Legal Clinical Program, and later as a Visiting Professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Her bar admissions include the U.S. Supreme Court; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio; and Ohio.
Professor Koosed is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Bar Association and the Ohio State Bar Association, and other professional associations. She served two terms as a commissioner on the State Public Defender Commission, chairing the State Public Defender Commission’s Committee on Capital Defense Counsel Qualifications. She recently served on the American Bar Association’s Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team and previously served as coordinator of the Ohio Death Penalty Task Force. She has also served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Criminal Justice and as an acting judge of the South Euclid Municipal Court.
Professor Koosed is a frequent presenter on death penalty issues at litigation seminars and symposia.
Bernie is the co-author of, “Leveraging People & Profit – the Hard Work of Soft Management” and has spent decades working in executive and leadership roles for Fortune 500 companies. He currently leads PMPA, a manufacturing association in northeast Ohio.
Bernie founded Altrupreneur, a consulting group of business owners, C-level executives, managers, supervisors and workers at every level. Altrupreneur aims to inspire a culture of enthusiastic engagement through the ideas of “servant leadership” in the workplace. Outside of his work with Altrupreneur and PMPA, Bernie served as an executive board member for Conscious Capitalism Northeast Ohio, where he helped managers develop conscious-driven business plans for a more sustainable work environment. Among several other positions, he was the director of strategy and continuous improvement for Plastic Injection Molding and the owner and president of California Closets, where the business grew threefold under his ownership. Bernie has been a senior consultant for Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Bernie earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Gannon University, where he was named Distinguished Alumnus. He earned a management certificate from Northeastern University Graduate School of Business and a certificate in Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence from CWRU Weatherhead School.
Chris, a long-time resident of Cleveland Heights, has been in the financial services industry for over 30 years. He is currently a Senior Vice President in the Risk Management Group of PNC Financial Services, Inc. He holds an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business.
Chris has been the Treasurer for Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, and has been an active member in a number of non-profit organizations over the years, including Family Promise of Greater Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
Jim and Nancy Petro
Jim was elected Ohio Auditor in 1994 and re-elected in 1998, serving two terms from 1995 to 2003. Jim served as Ohio Attorney General from 2003-2007, supervising 19 executions, more than any other state attorney general in 50 years. Most recently, Jim was appointed to Governor John Kasich’s cabinet as Chancellor of the Board of Regents from 2011-2013.
Jim’s service as attorney general prompted Nancy to research and write about miscarriages of justice. Together they co-authored False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent (Kaplan 2011), which garnered a Constitutional Commentary Award (The Constitution Project) and the Justice for All Media Award (Northern California Innocence Project). Peking University Press published the book in Chinese in 2012 and textbook publisher Routledge released a revised edition in 2014.
Nancy is a contributing editor of the Wrongful Convictions Blog.
Kevin has been the director of OTSE since 2007. Kevin is responsible for directing the staff, managing day-to-day operations and campaigns, communications and media, fundraising, board development, organizational strategic planning and changing light bulbs.
Kevin is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. He served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Detroit and worked for JVC as an area director. He has a background in community organizing with national organizations and has worked on numerous state and national campaigns, ranging from environment to state elections.
Abe has done everything from campaign consulting to volunteer coordination for OTSE. Abe is one of the leading organizers in the death penalty abolition movement and has had a role legislative repeal victories from New Jersey to New Mexico. He has worked as the Director of Affiliate Support for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He also worked extensively with the Delaware Repeal Project before the Delaware Supreme Court threw out that state’s death penalty.
Emily is a graduate of the Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and is an experienced office administrator. Emily is responsible for the organizational and administrative functions for OTSE.
Matthew is an experienced technologist and believes strongly in the power of technology and social media to effect change in advocacy. Matthew manages the website, newsletter, creates promotional designs, and advances overall digital strategy at OTSE.
Hannah is a graduate of Denison University with a degree in English Literature and Narrative Nonfiction Writing. She is in charge of administrative and communications work at OTSE.