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ARC Awards for Excellence in Mitigation


Each year, Advancing Real Change, Inc. presents awards to outstanding mitigation specialists and others who are advancing the field and changing the criminal legal system for the better.

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About our Awards

Each year, Advancing Real Change, Inc., presents several awards: The Muhammad-White Award, which honors a mitigation specialist whose body of work has profoundly advanced the field of mitigation. The Emerging Leader Award is given to a mitigation specialist who represents the future of the profession. The winners are selected by a volunteer committee of accomplished mitigation specialists, capital and non-capital defenders.

The Muhammad-White Award

Advancing Real Change (ARC), Inc. began the Muhammad-White Award in 2020 to recognize and celebrate a mitigation professional’s excellence throughout their career.

This award has been named for two clients who have played key roles in ARC, Inc.’s history. Malachi Muhhammad was sentenced to life in prison at age 17 and released in 2020. Our relationship with Malachi helped Advancing Real Change, Inc., better understand the critical role of the client relationship in achieving just outcomes and success after re-entry. And another client who helped us advance mitigation to areas beyond capital work. This award represents the many lessons we have learned from each of our clients and their legacy in the way we carry those lessons forward in our work.

The recipient of this award will be someone who has raised the standard of mitigation, not only for their clients, but also for the criminal defense community.

The Emerging Leader Award

Advancing Real Change, Inc.’s Emerging Leader Award recognizes and celebrates a mitigation professional in the early stages of their career. The honoree will be an individual who is laying the groundwork for excellence in their direct casework, and has the potential to move the field forward through dedication to high standards, commitment to continued professional development, and encouragement of other practitioners.

In short, the recipient of this award will be someone who represents the future of mitigation work.

The 3am Warrior Award 

The 3am Warrior Award acknowledges the tenacity and commitment of one of our partners in the capital and criminal defense fields. ARC staff members determine the winner of this award independently of the awards committee.

Award Winners

Scarlet Nerad

Muhammad-White Award

Scarlet Nerad has been a leader in the field of mitigation from its inception. With more than 30 years of experience, Scarlet worked with pioneers in the field to shape best practices and demonstrate the impact mitigation can have on individual lives and its ability to limit the reach of the death penalty. Scarlet played an important role in developing the ABA Guidelines, which is now the national standard for mitigation investigation for death penalty cases.

Scarlet began her work as an investigator with the ACLU in 1991, when the profession was in its early stages and best practices were not well established. In the face of these challenges, she helped many capital clients receive life sentences, including state and Federal cases. Her commitment to her clients and their communities run deep and continues after her casework comes to an end. One of her former clients, for example, is now employed by the Community Resource Initiative (CRI), an organization she co-founded in 2007.

Since its founding, CRI has grown to be a leading provider of mitigation investigation. CRI uses a team approach that provides training and support for mitigators who are early in their careers. The organization shares leadership among the team, provides sabbaticals to its staff, and seeks out other ways to make this challenging work more sustainable. Scarlet has also developed programs through CRI that support the families and communities of those who are accused of crimes or incarcerated, such as Reading Across the Lines, which helps incarcerated individuals record themselves reading books for their children.

Through her work directly with clients, serving a leader in formal training programs around the country for more than 20 years, and mentorship, Scarlet  has shaped the careers of countless mitigation specialists in California and around the country and had a profound impact on the field.

Kristen Samuels

Emerging Leaders

An investigator and mitigation specialist at the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) since 2014, Kristen Samuels is a tireless investigator and advocate for her clients.

She is known to be an effective and determined mitigation investigator, whether going out late in the day to meet with witnesses or seeking out essential records about her clients and their families. Kristen demonstrates humanity in her work, treating her clients and their communities with dignity, respect, and care and building trust that leads to better outcomes. She is a patient and persistent advocate for her clients with her defense teams, and dedicated to following the best practices of mitigation investigation in all her cases.

In addition, as a Black woman practicing in a field with few practitioners of color, Kristen has worked to promote equity and fairness. In 2021, she founded and developed a successful new training program at SCHR with the goal of fostering equity in training opportunities and staff development. Kristen also consults with various teams about strategy, and teaches at trainings across the country, including recently at the National Association for Public Defense’s inaugural Color of Mitigation conference in Atlanta.

Less than ten years into her career, Kristen is a leader in the field and represents the future of mitigation work.

Leslie Jill Patterson

3am Warrior Award

Jill Patterson is an accomplished writer, editor, and teacher, and an educator in the criminal defense field. She has been a full-time faculty in the Creative Writing Program at Texas Tech University since 1993, where she founded and continues to edit Iron Horse Literary Review. She has been published in numerous magazines and journals including Kenyon Review, Texas Monthly, and Creative Nonfiction and is a recipient of the prestigious Pushcart Prize.

For more than a decade, she has been helping attorneys representing indigent men and women charged with capital murder and facing the death penalty in the state of Texas. Since the fall of 2009, Jill has assisted defense teams on over forty capital murder cases. In 2022, she led a workshop for Advancing Real Change, Inc. in Jacksonville in 2022 and will lead another in Baltimore in October 2023, and has led seminars for the ACLU, NAACP, Legal Defense Fund, and many others. Jill was a Soros Justice Fellow in 2014 for her work with public defenders and narrative development in capital cases.

Her work has had a tremendous impact on those who have benefited from her training and consulting and on ARC’s practice. Her insight, skill, and dedication to empathy, equity, and telling true stories are an inspiration.

Jessica Sutton

Muhammad-White Award

Jessica Sutton has advocated for individuals facing extreme sentences for over a decade. She has served as a mitigation specialist in capital cases in more than a dozen jurisdictions nationwide and at every stage of proceeding, from trial to clemency. Currently, Ms. Sutton is a Principal Attorney and mitigation specialist at the non-profit law firm Phillips Black, Inc., where she provides mitigation services and consultation to capital trial and post-conviction teams around the country. She also conducts life history investigations in cases with clients who were sentenced to life as juveniles and has seen the release of six clients since 2020.

Additionally, Ms. Sutton serves as an expert consultant for capital teams with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and as a mentor for the ACLU Scharlette Holdman Mitigation Mentorship Program. She has presented and lectured nationally and internationally on mitigation investigation and has published on mitigation-related topics in the St. John’s Law Review, the Syracuse Journal of Law & Civic Engagement, and in international defense manuals. Ms. Sutton frequently serves as an expert on the standard of care in mitigation investigations and co-authored guidelines on mitigation investigation in the era of COVID. Ms. Sutton also consults with defense teams on representing death-sentenced women and transgender individuals and has co-authored guidelines on this topic in collaboration with the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. A graduate of Tufts University and Boston University School of Law, Ms. Sutton has taught courses at Tufts University and the University of Idaho College of Law and serves as a consulting editor for the journal reSentencing.

Tanya Greene

3am Warrior Award

Tanya Greene is an attorney working as a Capital Resource Counsel and the Director of Training for the Capital Resource Counsel & Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Projects. Ms. Greene has represented state and federal indigent capital clients for more than 25 years, starting in the Deep South at the Southern Center for Human Rights, and then at the New York Capital Defender Office, at trial, appeal, and in state and federal post-conviction proceedings.

Throughout her career, she has consulted on state and federal capital cases providing litigation and other resource support and developed innovative, highly-regarded lawyer training programs nationwide.

Prior to her current position, Ms. Greene spent five years as the inaugural national ACLU criminal justice Advocacy and Policy Counsel focused on death penalty and indigent defense policy reform issues; her work contributed to death penalty repeal in a number of states.

Ms. Greene served as the first active Death Penalty Resource Counsel for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), creating NACDL’s Making the Case for Life annual training conference, which continues today.

Ms. Greene has served on the Board of Directors of the NACDL, co-chair of the NACDL Death Penalty Committee, and as a member of that organization’s Public Defense Committee. She served on the American Bar Association Death Penalty Due Process Project Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the Gulf Region Advocacy Center in Houston, Texas, and has been part of the National Association for Public Defense Death Penalty and Racial Justice subcommittees.

From the beginning of her career, Ms. Greene developed and implemented “street law” programs with the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild bringing legal education to the community. As a young lawyer in 1999, she won the Reebok International Human Rights Award for her work against the death penalty and was profiled in Working Woman magazine. She has made numerous media appearances, guest-lectured at law schools and colleges, and taught at training conferences across the country.

She graduated from Wesleyan University with a double major in Sociology and Afro-American Studies, and received her JD from Harvard Law School.

Nayeli Moreno

Emerging Leader Award

Nayeli Moreno received a Bachelor of Social Work in 2018 and a Master of Science in Social Work in 2019 from the University of Texas at Austin.

Nayeli completed an undergraduate internship at the UT Law Criminal Defense Clinic where she worked with clients facing misdemeanor charges and helped connect them to community resources. She spent her final semester in graduate school working with Texas Defender Service as a Mitigation Intern. She joined Texas Defender Service as a Mitigation Specialist in 2019 working primarily with Spanish speaking clients and their families on pretrial and post-conviction cases.

Lela Hubbard, LMSW

Muhammad-White Award

Arizona Capital Representation Project

3am Warrior Award

Anupama Vishwamitra, LCSW

Muhammad-White Award

Cassandra Stubbs

3am Warrior Award

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