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Initia Letta
Acting Chief Attorney

Office of the Public Defender
Post Conviction Defenders Division 
217 E. Redwood Street, Suite 1020 
Baltimore, MD 21202
410-209-8600

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POST CONVICTION DEFENDERS DIVISION

Administration

Initia Lettau, Acting Chief  Attorney
Initia Lettau joined the Post Conviction Defenders Division in September 2005 as a post conviction public defender. In January 2014, she was promoted to Deputy Chief Attorney, and in January 2017 became Acting Chief Attorney. 

In 2015, Ms. Lettau started the Free Mind Book Project, which is dedicated to replenishing inmate libraries with books. She collects books donated by the public and delivers them to DOC and detention center libraries. In the first year alone, more than 1,000 books were donated to inmate libraries throughout the state.

Ms. Lettau is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina -Coastal Carolina College, where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Science. Ms. Lettau worked as an environmental chemist for 10 years prior to entering law school. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law and a Rose Zetzer fellow. Following law school, she was a judicial law clerk for The Honorable William O. Carr in the Circuit Court for Harford County.

Ms. Lettau received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2004. She clerked for the Honorable William O. Carr in the Circuit Court for Harford County. Ms. Lettau joined our Collateral Review Division in 2005.

Sheila Sloan, Office Manager

Attorneys

Eli Braun, Assistant Public Defender
Before joining the Collateral Review Division in 2014, Eli clerked for the Honorable Corinne Beckwith of the D.C. Court of Appeals. He grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and graduated from Brown University and the University of Michigan Law School.

Jennifer Caffrey, Supervising Attorney
Jennifer Caffrey joined the Post Conviction Defenders Division in January of 2011.  In March, 2014, she was promoted to Supervising Attorney and is currently supervising 5 attorneys.  In January, 2014, Ms. Caffrey was awarded with PCD's highest honor, the Distinguished Post Conviction Attorney of the Year Award, for her dedication, zealous advocacy and compassion toward clients. Ms. Caffrey will be leading PCD's newly-formed Brady Litigation Team, that will focus on identifying and litigating alleged Brady violations.  Most recently, Ms. Caffrey was asked to be a part of the esteemed core faculty training team for the Office of the Public Defender's Gideon Promise Training.  She is also credited with developing and managing PCD's intern program.
 
Ms. Caffrey is a native of Charles County, Maryland.  She is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Prior to joining the office, she clerked for several judges on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

Brendan Costigan, Assistant Public Defender
Brendan Costigan moved to Baltimore in 2000 to attend the Johns Hopkins University, graduating with honors in 2004 with a major in Political Science.  From then until 2009, he held public policy research and advocacy positions in the Office of the Governor of Illinois, the National Summer Learning Association in Baltimore, and the Southern Governors' Association in Washington, D.C.  After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2012, he served as a Legal Writing Fellow at the law school, and joined the Collateral Review Division in the summer of 2014.

Brianna Ford, Asst. Public Defender
Ms. Ford received her B.A., from the Pennsylvania State University in 2007. After working as an investigator at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia for two years, she attended the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, where she received her J.D. Ms. Ford was admitted to the bar in 2012. Prior to joining the office, Ms. Ford represented indigent criminal defendants at initial appearances before Maryland Court Commissioners, as well as practiced family law in Prince George's County. Ms. Ford joined our Collateral Review Division in 2014.

Norman Handwerger, Assistant Public Defender
Norman Handwerger received his J.D. Degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1987 and began practicing civil rights litigation with the Prisoner Assistance Project of the Legal Aid Bureau.  He joined the Collateral Review Division in 1992.  Mr. Handwerger served as the Deputy Attorney from 2003 - 2013.
 

Gabriela Kahrl
Gabriela Quercia Kahrl (formerly Gabriela Hopkins) has been leading  the Immigration Unit at the Post Conviction Defenders Division since August 2012. The Immigration Unit provides representation to non-US citizens with convictions that adversely affect their immigration status and they are facing imminent deportation. Ms. Kahrl challenges the constitutionality of their convictions in the district and circuit courts throughout the State of Maryland. To maximize success in court, Ms. Kahrl collaborates with the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Immigration Clinic, the Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition, and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2014, Ms. Kahrl has testified before Maryland House and Senate in support of her clients. Ms. Kahrl is a board member of the Maryland Immigrants Rights Coalition and routinely gives training sessions on post conviction/coram nobis to the private bar. Last April, she was a presenter at the Federal Bar Association's Symposium on the Intersection of Criminal Law, Immigration and Detention. Recently, her article, How Post Conviction/Coram Nobis Can Help Your Immigration Client was published in Immigration Briefings. In the past 2 years, Ms. Kahrl has successfully vacated a number of convictions and successfully reduced multiple sentences, culminating in the prevention of over 25 deportations, allowing her clients to stay with their families in the US.  Ms. Kahrl is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law and St. John's College. She is a native speaker of Spanish and German, and is fluent in French. Ms. Kahrl is the 2014 recipient of the Post Conviction Defender's Tenacious Advocacy award.

James Johnston, Assistant Public Defender
James Johnston directs the Youth Resentencing Project, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender’s program to obtain post-conviction relief for clients sentenced to life without parole and other long prison terms for crimes committed as children.

Mr. Johnston joined OPD in 2003 and the Post-Conviction Defenders Division in 2015.  Prior to joining PCDD, he supervised OPD’s Youthful Defendant Unit which focused on trial representation of children charged as adults, represented clients facing felonies in Baltimore, and worked in the Frederick and Hagerstown offices.  Mr. Johnston speaks nationally on issues surrounding children in the adult court and correctional systems.  He helped create a ground-breaking consent agreement which removed children from the Baltimore City Detention Center and that lead directly to legislation removing children from jails statewide.  He also contributed to the national Trial Defense Guidelines standards for representing children facing life in prison.

Mr. Johnston is a graduate of Dickinson College and Tulane University Law School.  He is the Vice-President of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Association and Vice-Chair of the Maryland State Bar Association Section on Correctional Reform. He has a special interest in representing individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities and authored the article "Mental Health and Maryland's Prisons" in the November/December 2011 issue of the Maryland Bar Journal.

Judith Jones, Assistant Public Defender
Ms. Jones received her J.D. from the Catholic University Columbus School of Law. She holds a Masters degree in Health Administration from Antioch University. Following her graduation from Antioch, she was the project director and research analyst on a number of federal contracts for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Juvenile Justice and the Delinquency Prevention Program in the Department of Justice. Ms. Jones joined our Collateral Review Division in 2007.

Margaret Lanier, Supervising Attorney 
Ms. Lanier received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1987. She then served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable A. Owen Hennegan on the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The next year she was the judicial law clerk for the Honorable Robert Murphy, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for Maryland. Ms. Lanier joined the Office of the Public Defender in 1992 and worked in the Appellate Division for twelve years. In 1993, she received the Death Penalty Defense Award and in 1996 she received the Attorney of the Year Award. Ms. Lanier joined the Collateral Review Division in 2004.

Matthew Lynn, Assistant Public Defender 
Mr. Lynn received his J.D. degree from the University of Baltimore Law School in 1981.  He was admitted to the Maryland Bar and U.S. District Court for Maryland in 1981.  Following his graduation, he served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Joseph I. Pines in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and the Honorable Charles E. Moylan, Jr. on the Court of Special Appeals.  Mr. Lynn subsequently engaged in the private practice of law as a litigator until joining the Collateral Review Division in 2001.

Melissa McDonnell, Assistant Public Defender
Ms. McDonnell received her B.A., cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. She then attended the University of Maryland School of Law and received her J.D., magna cum laude, in 2009. Following her graduation, she served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Clayton Green on the Maryland Court of Appeals. She joined our Collateral Review Division in 2010.

Alyssa Navarrete, Assistant Public Defender
Alyssa Navarrete is a graduate of Virginia Tech where she earned a Bachelors degree in Communications and Spanish. Thereafter, she attended the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law and received her J.D., cum laude, in the spring of 2014. During her time at Carey Law, she served as a writing fellow and an Associate Editor on the Maryland Law Review. She was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2014. Prior to joining the Collateral Review Division in the Spring of 2015, Ms. Navarrete clerked for the Honorable Pamela J. White on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

James M. Nichols, Asst. Public Defender
James M. Nichols is a 2003 graduate of the University of Delaware, where he received a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and Political Science, and a 2008 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of law. While attending law school, Mr. Nichols worked for Kramon & Graham as a summer associate and as a law clerk for Warnken, LLC. After graduation, Mr. Nichols became a lawyer with Warnken, LLC, where he handled post convictions and appellate matters for the Firm. Mr. Nichols appeared before the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, as well as both of Maryland's appellate courts and many of Maryland's Circuit Courts. Mr. Nichols was also lead counsel in Ace America Ins. Co., v. Williams, 418 Md. 400 (2011); Matthews v. State, 424 Md. 503 (2011); and Moore v. United States, 709 F.3d 287 (4th Cir. 2013). In 2013, Mr. Nichols joined the Office of the Public Defender.

Karla Showalter, Assistant Public Defender
Karla Showalter graduated,from West Virginia University in 1996. She attended law,school at the University of Maryland School of Law and graduated with honors in 2001. Ms. Showalter served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable William O. Carr in Harford County from 2001-2002. She joined the office of the public defender in 2003 and worked in the Baltimore City Juvenile Division from 2003-2011.  Ms. Showalter joined the Collateral Review Division in 2011 and is currently the Director of the Parole Revocation Unit. 

Scott Whitney, Assistant Public Defender
Mr. Whitney received his J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1980. Following his graduation he clerked for the Honorable Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy. He joined the Office of the Public Defender in 1981 and spent two years in the Juvenile Division. In 1983 he transferred to the Collateral Review Division. Mr. Whitney was the Chief Attorney of the Collateral Review Division from 2003 - 2013.

Support Staff

Sheila Sloan, Office Manager

Rudy Hill, Law Clerk

Brittany Leister, Paralegal
Ms. Leister is a graduate of Stevenson University with a degree in Paralegal Studies.  Ms. Leister started her career as a court clerk in the Circuit Court for Carroll County.  She then joined the Office of the Public Defender in Westminster, MD as an Intake Specialist.  Ms. Leister joined the Collateral Review Division in October, 2014 as a Paralegal.

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