FCCR Staff

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Stephen K. Harper, Esq. Executive Director

For 29 years, Stephen K. Harper worked at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, serving the last 17 as Co-coordinator of the Capital Litigation Unit where he was primarily responsible for the gathering and presentation of mitigation evidence in capital cases. From 1989-1995, Mr. Harper served as the Chief of the Juvenile Division. In 2002, he took a two-year leave of absence to coordinate the Juvenile Death Penalty Initiative, a project culminating with his oversight of the drafting and filing of amicus curiae briefs in Roper v. Simmons.

Mr. Harper has lectured nationally and internationally on both juvenile and death penalty issues. He worked on the American Bar Association’s Guidelines Advisory Committee and participated in the revision of the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases. Mr. Harper also consulted with and advised the military defense team in a case involving a child soldier in Guantanamo under the Military Commissions Act, United States v. Omar Ahmed Khadr, as well as in the death-penalty cases of Abdul Kabir v. Quarterman and Brewer v. Quarterman, important decisions relating to the presentation of mitigation evidence in capital trials.

Karen M. Gottlieb, Esq. Co-Director

With extensive capital experience, beginning with 15 years in the appellate division of the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, Karen M. Gottlieb focuses on capital cases and cases in which juveniles have been sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment. She has represented criminal defendants in more than 250 appeals and extraordinary writs in Florida and federal courts, and on certiorari petitions in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ms. Gottlieb is the former chair of the Florida Public Defenders’ Capital Litigation Steering Committee, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Capital Resource Center since 2013. She has lectured on effective appellate advocacy and various death-penalty topics for the Florida Public Defenders’ Association, The Florida Bar, the Dade County Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar Association, the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges, the St. Thomas Law Review Symposium, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Vermont Law School Capital Punishment Symposium. Most recently, Ms. Gottlieb filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of former Supreme Court of Florida Justices in Hurst v. Florida, in which the Court granted certiorari to consider whether Florida’s capital punishment system violates the Sixth or Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.

Elisa Quesada, Esq., LCSW Staff Attorney & Mitigation Specialist

Elisa Quesada is an attorney and licensed clinical social worker who has more than 15 years’ experience working with children, families, and adults in a variety of clinical and legal settings. Ms. Quesada has consulted on both civil and criminal cases involving intellectual, clinical, and medical issues as they relate to sentencing.

Ms. Quesada served as a mitigation specialist for both juveniles and adults at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office, working exclusively with capital clients for more than six years. She served as the Coordinator of the Mitigation and Placement Unit as well as the Training Coordinator of Mitigation Specialists, where she developed training programs on office-wide mitigation practices and procedures. During her time at the Public Defender’s Office, Ms. Quesada was also a member of the team that created the nationally-recognized Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Program (JSAP), which outlined juvenile advocacy and sentencing techniques for direct-file juveniles.

Hannah Gorman, Research Scholar & Attorney (UK)

Hannah Gorman is a research scholar and UK attorney based at the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University’s College of Law (FCCR). She leads the FCCR’s state-wide research and assists legal teams with capital cases at pre-trial stage. She also co-teaches on the death penalty module and clinic with a special focus on international law.

Hannah was formerly associate director of the Centre for Human Rights at Birmingham City University, UK where she co-directed/founded the law school’s pro bono clinic. She previously practised as a solicitor-advocate in criminal and public law (right to education; property rights of indigenous tribes; right to life; right to freedom of religion; right not to be subjected to torture) in the UK and spent time in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Oregon working on capital cases. More recently, Hannah worked in South-East Asia and the Middle East focusing on similar types of cases. She worked with the United Nations, European Union, foreign governments and local legal teams to provide effective assistance to those facing the death penalty around the world. She has also drafted and co-ordinated the filing of amicus briefs on various key issues such as juvenile sentencing (Graham & Sullivan v. Florida; Miller v. Alabama; Jackson v. Arkansas).

Hannah remains particularly interested in the issue of consular protection, diplomatic actions and international institutional response to the issue of human rights/crime as well as the role of the jury, mitigation and restorative justice within criminal proceedings. She continues to consult on consular and legal assistance in respect of foreign nationals detained overseas.

Capital defense teams are strongly encouraged to contact FCCR as early in the representation as possible.

To initiate a case-consultation with Florida Center for Capital Representation, please contact Stephen K. Harper at 305-348-7215 or stharper@fiu.edu.