MVFHR Board of Directors

Bill Babbitt, member of the Board of Directors, has spoken publicly about the way the death penalty affects families of the executed since his brother, Manny, was executed by the state of California in 1999. His story is told in the book Capital Consequences and in the documentaries And Then One Night and A Question of Justice. Bill has spoken at a press conference at the United Nations, testified before legislative committees in California, Massachusetts, Washington, and New Jersey, spoken at a Capital Case Defense Seminar, and addressed many student and legal audiences about mental illness and the death penalty.

Jeanne Bishop, Treasurer of the Board of Directors, is the sister of Nancy Bishop Langert, who was shot to death along with her husband and their unborn child in 1990. Bishop has testified before Illinois the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, and several state legislative committees. She appears in the death penalty documentaries The Innocent and Too Flawed To Fix. Along with her sister Jennifer, she received the Brigid Award from Concern Worldwide, honoring women who exemplify justice, generosity, and compassion in their work and daily lives. Bishop serves as assistant public defender in the Office of the Cook County Public Defender and is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University School of Law in the trial advocacy program. She is the author of several law review articles and op-ed pieces, serves on the Advisory Board of the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, and volunteers for the gun violence prevention organizations Million Mom March and the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

Reverend Walter Everett, member of the Board of Directors, serves on the board of Pennsylvanians United Against the Death Penalty and speaks several times a month to audiences around the state. He has testified before the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly and spoken to hundreds of audiences in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Everett’s son, Scott, was shot and killed in 1987, and after a long struggle Everett was able to reconcile with the man convicted of the murder, to the extent that the two now speak together at prisons, universities, and churches. Reverend Everett has been active in several restorative justice organizations, including the Restorative Justice Task Force of the Christian Conference of Connecticut (for which he has served as Chair) and the Hartford-based Board of Community Partners in Action.

Bill Pelke, member of the Board of Directors, is the president and co-founder of “The Journey of Hope … from Violence to Healing,” an organization that hosts annual speaking tours led by murder victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty. He has served on the boards of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Alaskans Against the Death Penalty, and he has spoken against the death penalty in numerous forums across the United States and in 10 other countries. Initially a supporter of the death penalty, Pelke eventually became involved in an international effort to spare the life of the 15-year-old girl who was sentenced to death for the murder of Pelke’s grandmother, Ruth Pelke. Bill continued to speak out against the juvenile death penalty up until the Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Simmons case.

Vicki Schieber, Chair of the Board of Directors, has been outspoken in her opposition to the death penalty since her daughter, Shannon, was raped and murdered in 1998. Vicki and her husband Sylvester actively opposed the death penalty for their daughter’s murderer and have published op-ed pieces about the death penalty in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Post; their story is also included in an NBC film on the death penalty sponsored by the Robert Kennedy Foundation. Vicki has testified before the U.S. Senate and several other legislative venues, and speaks regularly to church and student audiences. In 2008, she served as a member of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment.

Marie Verzulli, whose sister Cathy was murdered, works as the victim/survivor advocate for New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, focusing on filling the gaps in services and empowering victims to advocate for programs that address the root causes of crime and violence. Marie is Vice-President of the Capital District Coalition for Crime Victims Rights and serves on the Restorative Justice Commission of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, the Center for Community Justice Board and the advisory committee of the downstate parole reform and prison re-entry project. Marie is the founder and director of Family and Friends of Homicide Victims.

Bud Welch, President of the Board of Directors, became an ardent spokesperson against the death penalty after his daughter Julie, along with 167 others, was killed in the bomb blast that destroyed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Welch has testified before 22 state legislative bodies, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, the Russian Duma, and the British and European Parliaments, and addressed groups at universities, law schools, and religious organizations across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He serves on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and was a member of the board of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. For his work as an anti-death penalty activist, he has received several “abolitionist of the year” awards and other honors and been interviewed for numerous print and broadcast news stories.