Anna is the Executive Director of the Georgia Resource Center. Prior to joining the GRC team in August 2019, she worked for more than a decade as a staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. At the ACLU, Anna represented people in death penalty cases at the trial, direct appeal, and post‐conviction stages across the South. She also authored amicus curiae briefs in capital cases across the country and in the United States Supreme Court. Anna serves as a regular consultant with capital defense attorneys and advocates, and presents at training seminars for capital defense professionals.
Anna began her legal career as a fellow with the Fair Trial Initiative, where she assisted in the preparation of capital trial and post‐conviction cases in North Carolina. Anna received her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law and her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.
Vanessa joined the Georgia Resource Center as a staff attorney in September 2017. Vanessa began her legal career at the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007 where she used individual and impact litigation to bring about systemic reforms in the mental health, special education, indigent defense, and juvenile and criminal justice systems in Mississippi and Louisiana. Following the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, Vanessa also played a major role in coordinating the filing of re-sentencing applications for every child sentenced to life without parole in Mississippi. In 2013, Vanessa began representing individuals on Mississippi’s death row in state and federal post-conviction proceedings.
Rachel Chmiel has worked as an investigator and mitigation specialist with the Georgia Resource Center for the past 20 years. Rachel attended the University of Notre Dame Law School as a Kiley Fellow and, after graduating in 1995, clerked for the Honorable Harry Lee Anstead on the Supreme Court of Florida. Before joining the Resource Center, Rachel worked as a staff attorney at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans. There, she helped to represent indigent people facing the death penalty in Louisiana and Mississippi at trial, on direct appeal and in state post-conviction proceedings.
Akiva Freidlin joined the Resource Center as a staff attorney in 2018. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Hampshire College. He began his legal career as a Skadden Fellow at the Southern Center for Human Rights. There he worked to reverse the criminalization of poverty by addressing issues including privatized probation and the use of money bail.
Ellie Hopkins has worked as an investigator at the Georgia Resource Center for more than 25 years. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Georgetown University and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Georgia. In addition to her work investigating appellate issues for clients, she has also worked as a mitigation specialist for capital cases at the trial level.
John has been an investigator at the Resource Center since October of 2012 and has been doing investigative work in death penalty cases since 2003. Prior to joining the Resource Center team, he worked as a mitigation investigator in Memphis, TN. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Melissa joined the Georgia Resource Center in 2016 as an investigator. She has a background in Social Work, with a focus on child welfare, and experience working with youth in foster care. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology at the University of West Georgia, and a Masters in Social Work from Georgia State University.
Laura-Hill Patton returned to the Georgia Resource Center in 2019 after a 16-year hiatus from both the law and capital habeas work, during which she worked for her alma mater The Westminster Schools, as Director of Alumni, Director of Testing, and Registrar in the Upper School. Prior to that, she worked for the Georgia Resource Center and The Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Georgia for 7 years, representing people on Georgia’s death row at all stages of the collateral review process and clemency. Laura-Hill is a native of Atlanta and attended the University of Virginia School of Law and Duke University.
Cory Isaacson joined GRC in July of 2018. Before coming to GRC, Cory was an attorney at Georgia Justice Project, where she represented people facing barriers to employment and housing because of their criminal history and advocated for reforms to the state’s record restriction laws in the legislature. Prior to that, Cory was an attorney and clinical supervisor in the Youth Defender Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center, part of the clinical program at UC Berkeley School of Law. In that position, she represented young people in juvenile court and in school discipline proceedings and supervised law students working on those cases. She graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law in 2013.
Mary Shellman began working at the Resource Center in 1989, shortly after its inception. She feels privileged to have been the assistant to one of the Center’s founders, Patsy Morris, until Patsy’s retirement in 1996. In addition to financial responsibilities, Mary manages office operations, personnel, and benefits. Mary is also responsible for case tracking and case file management. Mary earned a B.A. in Sociology (Criminology concentration) from Eastern Illinois University. Prior to coming to the Resource Center, she worked for a small accounting firm and was the General Manager of the Little 5 Points Community Pub.
Marcy Widder is a Senior Litigator at GRC. Prior to joining the Resource Center in October 2012, she represented Louisiana capital litigants, mostly on direct appeal, at the Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans, and later as a solo practitioner, following a two-year clerkship for the Honorable James L. Dennis at the Louisiana Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She graduated summa cum laude from Tulane Law School and was articles editor for the Tulane Law Review. She has been counsel of record in four successful cases before the United States Supreme Court.