We’re building on the momentum


“I can’t think of a more exciting time to be part of the movement to abolish the death penalty,” new DPF Executive Director Nancy Haydt says. “With New Hampshire’s repeal just a few weeks ago, 25 states — half the states in the nation — are without a death penalty or with a moratorium in place right now. It’s clear the tide is turning and consensus is building that this deeply flawed system is barbaric and archaic, and it is time for the United States to join the rest of the Western world and repeal it once and for all.”

The DPF Board of Directors announced Haydt’s appointment this week. In making the announcement, Board chair Thomas H. Speedy Rice said, “Nancy will use the considerable skills she honed as an advocate for her clients in the courtroom to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty in California and in other states. Her first-hand knowledge of how badly broken the death penalty system is makes her uniquely qualified to lead Death Penalty Focus at this pivotal moment in the criminal justice movement.”

After earning a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Colorado, Haydt began her career as a software engineer for AT&T in Denver and went on to work at several start-ups in Silicon Valley and Santa Barbara. In 1994, while working for a Santa Barbara start-up, she attended a night school program at Santa Barbara College of Law.

In 1995, as a law student intern at Ventura County Public Defender’s Office, she was assigned to work full time on a death-penalty case. After a hung jury and later, a second-degree murder conviction, “I put my technology career behind me, and never looked back,” she says.

After passing the bar exam, Haydt continued working at the Ventura Public Defenders until 2001, when she went into private practice doing criminal defense, as Keenan counsel on capital trial cases, and as a research attorney on capital habeas corpus appeals. 

She has been a member of the California capital defense community for a decade. She served on the Board of Governors for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and is the chair of the CACJ Death Penalty Committee. She was a DPF board member prior to her appointment as Executive Director. She is a Steering Committee member of the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project.
Her research on the representation of defendants with intellectual disability has been published in law reviews and professional journals.

 Haydt has done extensive research on the cost of the death penalty in California. Her comparison of California’s 2016 competing death penalty ballot initiatives was published in the Loyola Law School Law Review.

Haydt’s appointment coincides with DPF’s decision to move its office to Sacramento. Being in the state capital and in closer proximity to the governor’s and legislators’ offices will enable us to increase our outreach and strengthen our relationships with lawmakers. We will also have staff in Southern California, Oakland, and the North Bay.

Our phone number remains the same: 415-243-0143. Our new mailing address is:

Death Penalty Focus
1555 River Park Dr. Suite 105,
Sacramento, CA 95815

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