For Leona, who joined JSC’s faculty in 2017, teaching and research go hand-in-hand to create invaluable hands-on learning opportunities for students. Collaboration is key to her approach. “I plan to continue my teaching and research based on the principle that that scholarly and student collaboration enhances both research and student learning,” she says.
Leona is involved in research on wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice using data from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate wrongly convicted people and reform the justice system. Before she joined the JSC faculty, several of her students at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., where she taught presented their research at national criminology conferences and a college showcase. As book review editor of the “Thomson Reuters Criminal Law Bulletin,” she has worked with students on recent book reviews on mass incarceration, the death penalty and legal ethics. At JSC, she will integrate new research about Vermont’s unique restorative justice program with her teaching of community/restorative justice.
A practicing attorney and member of the New York state and federal bars, Leona also belongs to the New York State Defenders Association. She has had articles published in the “Criminal Law Bulletin” and other publications on the impact of defendants’ personality disorders and mental disabilities on capital-sentencing decisions and other issues. . She focuses on juror decision-making and wrongful-conviction errors as these issues relate to the biases of human reasoning and to cognitive shortcuts.Her dissertation research is entitled Receptivity of Capital Jurors to Mitigating Factors of Mental Illness, Intellectual Disability, and Situational Impairments in Death Penalty Decisions: The Capital Trial Analyzed as a Mitigating “Weight and Counterweight” to Premature Decisions and Pro-Death Bias.
As a J.D. and a Ph.D., I am committed to the principle of equal access to justice and fairness in the court and legal system,” Leona says. “This is reflected in my research, teaching and law practice.”
She wants to pay respect to the capital defense lawyers who symbolically throw sand into the machinery of death. As Dr. William J. Bowers wrote: “These lawyers have been throwing sand in the mechanism of the death penalty for so long that it’s finally starting to slow down the whole process. It’s only a matter of time before it finally comes to a halt.”