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.
Jennie Sheeks, Director of Development
Jennie Sheeks is the Director of Development for Witness to Innocence. In her lifelong fight for social justice, Jennie has participated in marches and rallies to free political prisoners, given rides to children visiting their incarcerated mothers, and organized non-violent direct actions including a solidarity protest to stop the execution of Shaka Sankofa. She is committed to efforts led by those most affected by injustice and has worked with formerly incarcerated persons providing reintegration services, lifers fighting life without parole and Falun Dafa practitioners exposing their illegal imprisonment and torture in China. In 2002, she traveled with the family of her dear friend Desmond Carter on a speaking tour to raise awareness about the death penalty and gain support for Desmond’s clemency campaign. The Governor did not grant clemency. The personal experience of having a loved one executed was an indescribably surreal and devastating experience that has only increased her commitment to abolition."
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.
Cara Kovalovich, Community Resources Coordinator
Cara Kovalovich is the Community Resources Coordinator for Witness to Innocence. Cara has spent much of her academic career focused on the history and effects of the death penalty in America, but has recently shifted her focus to how best to support individuals during their transition from incarceration to community life. She has earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminology from Northeastern University, and her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. Cara has developed community needs assessment protocols for a local non-profit and has spent time working with men incarcerated within the Philadelphia Department of Prisons as they reenter their communities. Her other areas of social justice focus stem from her background in Sociology and include such topics as economic justice and structural violence.
Sasha Anemone, Business and Office Manager
Sasha Anemone is the Business and Office Manager for Witness to Innocence. She has a background in music education and educational non-profits, holistic healthcare, farming, horticulture, and food justice. Her engagement with other social justice issues including racial justice, police violence, and environmental justice stems from a deep commitment to interconnected health and healing on individual, community and environmental levels. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College in Ohio and is a yoga teacher committed to cultivating and teaching nonviolent practices.
Terry Rumsey, Grants Manager
Terry Rumsey, president of Green Seeds Grants Company, has served as the grants manager and as a fundraising consultant for Witness to Innocence since 2005. Terry has helped WTI to raise more than $5 million in grant funds during that time. In addition to his fundraising role with Witness to Innocence, Terry served as the organization’s Interim Executive Director from March 1, 2011 through October 31, 2011. Terry also has a history of activism on the issue of death penalty abolition. He was the founder and first executive director of Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, which continues to operate to this day under the name of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Terry has worked for and with many different death penalty abolition and capital defense organizations over the last three decades, including the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, Equal Justice USA, Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, National Death Row Assistance Network, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Pennsylvania Capital Representation Project.