Meet Our Staff
Magdaleno "Leno" Rose-Avila, Executive Director
Magdaleno Rose-Avila, more fondly known throughout the human rights community as Leno, is Executive Director of Witness to Innocence. Leno has a long history of civil and human rights work, which led him many years ago to become involved in the movement to abolish the death penalty. In 1998, Leno joined with Sister Helen Prejean, one of the founders of WTI, to develop and launch the Moratorium Initiative, which became one of the most effective strategies to reach out to politicians and the public on the issue of abolition. While working for Amnesty International in Atlanta, he organized the largest meeting of national leaders in the African American Community on the death penalty, including Coretta Scott King, Reverend Joe Lowery, the National Black Police Association, Congressman John Conyers, and many others. He also worked with Cesar Chavez and other leaders of the historic United Farm Workers Union.
Stefanie Anderson, Director of Communications
Stefanie Anderson is the Director of Communications for Witness to Innocence. She first engaged with the abolition movement via her involvement with a local Amnesty International group in Seattle, WA in 2003. She became Washington State’s Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator, and then joined the board of the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2008, where she has served in several leadership roles. Witness to Innocence is her first professional work in the abolition movement, her most recent previous professional roles being in natural and specialty product sales. Other social justice issues she has engaged with are immigrants’ rights, Israel/Palestine, and food justice. She has studied philosophy, ethics, music, and nutrition.
Dr. Sandra Joy, Community Resources Coordinator
Dr. Sandra Joy is the Community Resources Coordinator for Witness to Innocence. Dr. Joy is also a professor in the Sociology Department at Rowan University, located in Glassboro, New Jersey. She has been on the faculty at Rowan since 2002, teaching courses such as Race & Crime and The Sociology of Death, Dying, & Bereavement. Dr. Joy is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a dozen years of experience as a mental health and substance abuse therapist. For more than two decades, whether Dr. Joy was working in the mental health field or within academia, she has maintained her work as a community activist. She has been an abolitionist in the anti-death penalty movement throughout this time and serves on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Dr. Joy is the author of Coalition Building in the Anti-Death Penalty Movement: Privileged Morality, Race Realities (2010) and Grief, Loss, & Treatment for Death Row Families: Forgotten No More (2014).
Mariko Franz, Business and Office Manager
Mariko Franz has over ten years of experience working in nonprofits on an administrative and organizational level. Most recently, Mariko worked at the regionally-based Clean Air Council in Philadelphia as their Membership Coordinator. Previously, she served as an Administrative Assistant at the American Friends Service Committee, and as Administrative Manager to the Student Environmental Action Coalition. In addition, she worked on a number of local issues in Philadelphia, including public education, the school-to-prison pipeline, immigrant rights, and gentrification. Mariko received her Bachelor of Arts in Education and History from Temple University. Originally from Pittsburgh, Mariko now considers Philadelphia home, where she lives with her husband and daughter.
Sarah Morris, Program Assistant
Sarah Morris has been organizing against in mass incarceration in Philadelphia for the past ten years. In 2006, she co-founded the Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project (YASP), a youth-led and youth-staffed organization fighting to end the practice of trying and incarcerating young people as adults. In 2011, she joined other Philly-based organizers in starting Decarcerate PA, a grassroots coalition dedicated to ending mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, and recently worked in collaboration with DPA and several other organizations to launch the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI), a statewide coalition fighting to abolish life without parole (aka death by incarceration). In the past, she has worked at the American Friends Service Committee, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and as a Garden Educator for the Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation.