Board of Directors
Melinda Elkins-Dawson, Chair
Melinda is the Chair of the Board. She was elected to serve in this capacity in 2014. Her personal story with Ohio’s death penalty is remarkable. Melinda’s mother, Judith Johnson, was murdered in 1998. Melinda spent the next eight years of her life working to prove the innocence of her then-husband Clarence Elkins, who was wrongfully convicted of the murder. 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, Co-Chair
Charles E. Keith has been a death row advocate for over 20 years, dedicating his life to changing the views and educating others on the Death Penalty. He is a Tyro Dad graduate of the nationally recognized Ridge Program and also a Mentor with the Re-Entry Courts in Stark County, Ohio. He is currently working with Kent State University award winning producer John Butte on an upcoming documentary about his perilous journey to save his brother, Kevin Keith, from execution. Kevin Keith’s sentence was commuted in 2011 by Governor Ted Strickland. He now speaks out publicly against the Death Penalty and wrongful convictions.
The Rev. Dr. Mendle Adams
Rev. Dr. Mendle Adams joined OTSE’s board of directors in December 2013. He 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.
Reverend Adams 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 confirmation/pastors class text book, Touching Center: Adventures in Christ Consciousness.
Mendle and his wife, Ruth, have been married since 1957 and have four adult children, 15 grand children and 16 great grandchildren. Ruth and Mendle have been leaders in civil rights, equal rights, death penalty abolition and other progressive causes over the years.
Jon Paul Rion, Esq.
Jon Paul Rion joined the Board in December 2013. Mr. Rion is in Best Lawyers in America under the field of Criminal Law. He has tried in excess of one hundred felony jury trials, including capital cases. He is president of Rion, Rion & Rion, L.P.A., Inc., a three-generation criminal defense law firm founded in 1938 by his grandfather.
Jon Paul Rion is also the Board of Director of the Ohio Association of Criminal Lawyers and is a lifetime member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is Board Certified in the field of criminal law and is also a Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has tried cases in twenty-seven states. His firm consists of seven lawyers, is based in Dayton, Ohio and enjoys a national reputation.
Stacy K. Parker
Stacy K. Parker earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1993 from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics and her Juris Doctorate from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1997. After practicing law in various capacities, including Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Jackson and Kanawha Counties, West Virginia, as well as Franklin County, Ohio, Stacy returned to school to learn more about criminal justice. She earned her Master’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2007 and began teaching at Muskingum University soon thereafter.
Professor Parker teaches extensively in the area of courts and corrections, including an extremely popular course called Death Penalty. Now promoted to Associate Professor, Professor Parker has been recognized for her outstanding teaching skills as well as her significant research projects.
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.
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 Nagle is the co-author of the book, “Leveraging People & Profit – the Hard Work of Soft Management” and has spent decades working in executive and leadership roles for Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Nagle was also once a senior consultant for Price Waterhouse and Coopers.
Mr. Nagle is the principal founder of Altrupreneur, a consulting group of business owners, C-level executives, managers, supervisors and workers at every level, “who embody a covenant of mutual care, concern and sustainability in their relationships, both in and out of the workplace.” 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, Mr. Nagle 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, Mr. Nagle 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.
Mr. Nagle 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 Werner, Executive Director
Kevin Werner has been the director of Ohioans to Stop Executions since October 2007. Under his leadership the organization has grown by thousands of new members and includes a staff of two organizers.
Kevin is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2000. He served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Detroit, MI, from 2000-2001 and worked for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps: East as an area director for the New England province.
He has a background in community organizing with national organizations including Clean Water Action and Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. He has worked on numerous state and national campaigns, ranging from environmental concerns in Maryland to state elections in Texas.
Kevin is responsible for directing the staff, managing day-to-day operations and campaigns, communications and media, fundraising, board development, administrative functions and organizational strategic planning.
Abe Bonowitz, Campaign & Strategy
Abraham J. Bonowitz joined Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) as a campaign consultant in September 2013.
Abe is one of the leading organizers in the death penalty abolition movement and has had a hand in each of the legislative repeal victories thus far, starting with when he served as the Field Manager for New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, which passed its bill in 2007. He then worked as the Director of Affiliate Support for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and was directly involved in the repeal victories in New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Nebraska (since reversed via referendum). He also worked extensively with the Delaware Repeal Project, where legislation passed in the Senate twice before the Delaware Supreme Court threw out that state’s death penalty.
Most recently he helped run an Oklahoma campaign to oppose a statewide referendum which added capital punishment to the Bill of Rights of the Oklahoma Constitution. He founded Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and has served on the boards of the National Coalition, the Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing, and Amnesty International USA. Currently Abe serves OTSE and helps coordinate the activities of the Abolitionist Action Committee.
Emily Schutz, Executive Administrator
Emily joined the OTSE team in October of 2015. She graduated from 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 Copsey, Director of Information Technology and Digital Communications
Matthew Copsey joined OTSE’s staff in the Summer of 2015. He 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.