Noel Nickle, Director
Noel Nickle (she/her/hers) serves as the executive director of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Noel has worked as a mitigation specialist on trial and post-conviction death penalty cases in North and South Carolina since 2006. Working with attorneys from The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Noel secured life sentences for two individuals previously sentenced to death. Noel has a long history of community organizing in opposition to the death penalty, including her leadership in a successful community effort for the Asheville City Council to adopt a resolution supporting a moratorium on the death penalty. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Noel founded a social media group (WNC Response to COVID-19 For Those In Custody) for families who have loved ones in jail and prison custody and advocated for early release for incarcerated individuals. Noel is deeply committed to the principles and practices of restorative and transformative justice. She has a master’s in social work from UNC-Chapel Hill and lives in Asheville.
You can reach Noel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Courmon, Community Engagement Coordinator
Nick (he/ him) joined NCCADP in May 2022.
Nick is a native of Greensboro, NC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2019 with a B.A. in Political Science and a Pre-Law concentration. Nick is currently a graduate student at North Carolina Central University studying to receive his M.A. in African American History. Nick has previously engaged in organizing work alongside Democracy North Carolina and NextGen America. Nick is also currently serving as the spokesperson for the campaign to free Billie Allen from federal death row.
As a writer, poet, and spoken word artist, he has collaborated with Missourians Against the Death Penalty, NC Black Alliance, Democracy NC, NC Black Alliance, the Wounded Warrior Project, and has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, VICE News, and NBC’s TODAY. You can find more about Nick and his work in the arts and education on www.ndcpoetry.com
You can reach Nick at email@example.com
Zakiya Payne, Communications and Community Organizing Fellow
Zakiya Payne (she/ her) joined NCCADP in May 2022.
Zakiya graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Multimedia Journalism.
After a trip to the Equal Justice Initiative Museum in Alabama and watching Just Mercy Zakiya wanted to find ways to get involved in the fight against the death penalty. She has lost family members to homicide and has formerly incarcerated family members.
Prior to joining NCCADP Zakiya served as a campus corp leader for Bernie 4 HBCUS in 2019-2020, and interned at Planned Parenthood National Office for the campaigns department in 2021. Those two experiences have taught her the power of community, research and effective planning.
You can reach Zakiya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Turner, Board President
Jessica Turner is a community organizer with years of regional experience, most recently as a field manager at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
Jess works to strengthen grassroots support in local chapters and within faith communities to build relationships and coalitions around numerous justice issues with a special focus on reproductive justice. She received her bachelor’s degree from Elon University and worked with faith-based advocacy groups in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., before receiving her Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia.
Prior to joining the ACLU of North Carolina, Jess organized in faith communities to abolish the death penalty, advocated for workers’ rights, and led racial justice workshops. In her free time, Jess enjoys running and volunteering in the community. She got involved in the death penalty around the execution of Kelly Gissendaner in 2015. The execution galvanized her to work so no one else dies at the hands of the state.
Vernetta (she/her) was born in Durham, NC and has spent her entire life in the Triangle. She and her wife, Courtney, are raising their children, Reese and Davis, in southwest Durham. When she is not chasing small kids around, Vernetta enjoys running, watching sports, and traveling.
In 2004, Vernetta received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from North Carolina State University. Five years later, she completed her law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Vernetta’s first job out of law school was as a staff attorney for the Racial Justice Act Study following the passage of the Racial Justice Act in the fall of 2009. Vernetta spent the next several years of her practice working at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. There she represented people sentenced to death in a variety of appellate court cases and educated North Carolinians across the state about flaws in our criminal justice system. In 2014, through the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, one of Vernetta’s clients was exonerated and released from Death Row.
In 2017, Vernetta continued her public service on the Durham City Council, where she served for two years. In 2020, Governor Roy Cooper appointed Vernetta to the North Carolina House of Representatives. She was elected to her first full term in the same year. Vernetta continues to be a death penalty abolition champion and introduced a bill to repeal the death penalty in 2021.
Dawn Blagrove is the Executive Director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, a nonprofit that works to make North Carolina’s criminal justice system more humane and equitable.
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a minor in Secondary Education, cum laude from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, where she also obtained a Master’s Degree, magna cum laude, in Applied Social Science. She is a proud graduate of North Carolina Central School of Law.
After graduating law school, Dawn worked for eight years as a post-conviction staff attorney with North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc. In this position, she co-managed the jail credit team, made up of five paralegals dedicated to jail credit issues. As a post-conviction attorney, Dawn evaluated and prioritized requests for criminal post-conviction representation from inmates incarcerated in North Carolina’s Department of Correction. On their behalf, she litigated motions for appropriate relief and petitions for writs of habeas corpus in N.C. trial and appellate courts. Dawn also litigated federal habeas actions in U.S. District Courts in N.C.; the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA.; and the Supreme Court of the United States. She is proud of helping reach positive outcomes through negotiations and non-litigious avenues.
Dawn is also an adjunct professor for the Criminal Justice Department of Fayetteville Technical Community College and is a co-sponsor of the Capital City Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, an organization that is dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving, and civic duty.
Jennifer Watson Marsh
Jennifer Watson Marsh is a member of the Executive Staff at Self-Help, where she helps advance their mission of ownership and economic opportunity for all.
She works on projects including reducing pretrial incarceration of people who lack the cash to post bail in North Carolina, immigration bonds, increasing the N.C. minimum wage, and other wealth building issues. She also assists partner organizations in executing their missions while disrupting practices that harm vulnerable populations.
Jennifer served as the Senior Staff Attorney and Project Manager for North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act Study before going on to work with many social justice organizations including, Disability Rights NC, Democracy NC, North Carolina NAACP, and the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Jennifer currently serves on several boards including North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the ACLU of North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1993 and UNC School of Law in 2009.
Mark Pickett joined the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in 2013. Mark graduated from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2009, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. After graduating from law school, he worked as a J. Kirk Osborn Fellow with the Fair Trial Initiative, where he assisted with trial-level death penalty cases throughout North Carolina.
Before joining CDPL, Mark spent two years conducting research for the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Due Process Review Project.
Andre (he/ him) was born in Raleigh and has lived in North Carolina nearly all his life. He recalls growing up in the segregated south and getting in trouble when he was a teenager, which led to him dropping out of high school. Andre didn’t return to school until he was in his 50’s when he obtained his GED, graduated from NC State with a degree in psychology, and later taught GED classes at Wake Tech
Andre suffered from a serious health crisis which led to him becoming disabled, and it was then that he found his true calling: teaching anger management and Buddhist meditation to incarcerated people. He has been a volunteer teacher and mentor at Nash Correctional since 2006.
Andre’s opposition to the death penalty is rooted in his love for his son Daniel, known as Peace to his friends and family. Peace was stabbed to death in 2007 at a Raleigh nightclub. Soon after the murder, Andre forgave the man who killed his son. Andre often references his path to forgiveness and acknowledges it as the only way he can experience contentment. As a Buddhist, he believes that all humans, including the man who killed his son, contain goodness and are capable of transformation.
Erica joined Impact Justice in 2020 as a senior program associate for the Restorative Justice Project. She assists counties across the nation in developing and launching restorative justice diversion programs that center the needs of the people and communities harmed by wrongdoing and provides opportunities for those who caused harm to be accountable for their actions.
Previously, she spent almost three years with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation defending people on North Carolina’s death row and working to challenge the racialized dehumanization that sustains the capital punishment apparatus. Simultaneously, Erica helped to build and lead a restorative justice criminal diversion program in Durham, NC, which diverts adults charged with both misdemeanor and felonies into a restorative process.