NASAMS Executive Committee

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Founded in 1992, the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates & Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS) is the only national organization devoted to the educational and professional development of sentencing advocates and mitigation specialists. Contact the NASAMS Executive Committee to learn more about our organization and our profession.


NASAMS Chairperson

Smith Consulting Group, LLC

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Denise launched Smith Consulting Group, LLC in 2011, providing Forensic Social Work and Mitigation services focused on defense-based advocacy –giving a voice to truth and restoring dignity to the accused. Believing in second chances, Denise centers her mitigation practice primarily on serving post-conviction clients sentenced as juveniles and younger adults serving life in confinement.

With over 20 years of forensic social work and mitigation experience, Denise lends her expertise to social work education as a Forensic Field Education Instructor with the  Maryland Office of the Public Defender and Field Education Liaison with the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

As a teacher and mentor, Denise devotes her work to shaping and influencing student professional growth in understanding systemic oppression and cultural humility correlated with the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. She trains and provides coaching to mitigation professionals around the country. Social justice, defense-based advocacy, social work education, and mitigation professional development inspire and highlight her practice.  Denise was elected as Chair of the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS) Executive Committee in 2023.

Katherine Mayer, M.A., CCDI

NASAMS Co-Chairperson

Death Penalty Mitigation Specialist and Board-Certified Criminal Defense Investigator, Mayer Consulting, LLC.

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Katherine M. Mayer received a Masters in Forensic Psychology while interning with the Capital Defender of Northern Virginia. She worked as a Mitigation Specialist with the Public Defender of Miami-Dade’s Capital Litigation Unit.

In 2012, Katherine established Mayer Consulting which focused primarily on death penalty mitigation. Over the years, Katherine recognized the need for her to provide a full spectrum of services from fact investigation through sentencing. Katherine’s vision was to offer attorneys the benefit of being able to rely on one firm for their criminal defense needs.

Katherine is licensed in private investigation and in 2017 she became the first woman in Texas to obtain a board certification in criminal defense investigation. She holds a certificate in process serving, Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and is a notary.

NASAMS Secretary - Vacant


NASAMS Treasurer

Investigator, Capital Habeas Unit, Federal Public Defender Central District of California

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Megan is an investigator in the Capital Habeas Unit at the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles. She began her forensic social work and mitigation career at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore City where she was awarded a Soros Open Society Institute Fellowship to highlight for the courts the impact of structural racism, poverty, and violence on defendants. Prior to her current position, Megan co-owned and operated Context Mitigation, providing advocacy and mitigation services for clients in state and federal courts. She also served as the social work supervisor for the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender.  

Megan earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Maryland where she co-created the course Racism and Racial Equity in Social Work Practice. She provides training at conferences across the country on building client-centered, trauma-informed, and interdisciplinary defense teams. Megan enjoys running, hiking, biking, yoga, and spoiling her dog and two cats.


NASAMS Parliamentarian

Forensic Social Worker, New York County Defender Service

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Lyndsay Lewis earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Science in Social Work from University at Buffalo. With exposure to the forensic social work field starting in Knoxville, Tennessee and subsequently to Buffalo, New York, she has now been practicing in New York City for over 7 years. Currently, Lyndsay is a forensic social worker at New York County Defender Services. She is a member of a citywide and statewide forensic social work coalition and has presented at other public defender offices around the country regarding mentorship. At NYCDS, she acts as the field instructor for all social work interns.


NASAMS Corresponding Secretary

Mitigation Specialist and Investigator, Veral Investigation and Advocacy, LLC

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Mary Veral is a licensed clinical social worker who has spent her 15-year career advocating for people impacted by the criminal legal system. Currently she runs a private practice focused on defense-based social work and mitigation investigation for capital, non-capital, and post-conviction cases in both state and federal courts. She also serves as a commissioner for the Los Angeles County Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections.

Previously she worked as an Investigator and Social Worker with the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles, as well as the Jails Project Coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. She earned her B.A. from the University of Iowa and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington.


NASAMS Past-Immediate Chair

Senior Investigator, Southern Center for Human Rights

Sarah Forte is the Senior Investigator at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA. She joined SCHR in June 2006 upon graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she worked for the Medill Innocence Project investigating possible wrongful murder convictions and other miscarriages of justice.  At SCHR, Sarah investigates death penalty cases at the trial level and in post-conviction proceedings. Sarah has been on the faculty of numerous national trainings for public defenders and other legal professionals engaged in sentencing work. In July 2015, Sarah became a member of the Executive Committee of the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists.


NASAMS Executive Committee Member

Chief Program & Strategy Officer, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

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A life-long advocate for disenfranchised and marginalized members of our society, Crystal Carpenter has served as an advocate for education and criminal justice reform for over twenty years. Currently, Ms. Carpenter leads national advocacy work in legislative efforts to eliminate juvenile life without parole and other extreme sentences for youth. Ms. Carpenter works alongside directly impacted individuals - formerly incarcerated, their families, and survivors of youth crime - to ensure multi-directional sharing of data, information, and experiences. She also works with corporations, local nonprofits and businesses to ensure that agendas are centered around racial and economic justice. Her proximity to the issue provides a unique perspective as she works to educate and train diverse stakeholders on issues related to the harsh realities faced by incarcerated individuals and families - throughout their incarceration and upon their return to society.

In addition to her passion for social justice issues, Ms. Carpenter possesses wide-ranging data-backed experience focused on data analytics, project management, business intelligence, survey design, and programming.  She has worked to direct the implementation and management of contract and grant administrative policies and procedures to ensure that projects are in compliance with stakeholder requirements and exceed performance outcomes. She has also worked to develop and implement data collection systems and strategies to optimize statistical efficiency, data quality as well as to maintain or achieve accreditation for over forty programs across six service lines (Behavioral Health, Community Corrections, Veterans Services, Workforce Development, Housing and Homeless Services, Substance Abuse Services, and Services for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities).

Ms. Carpenter has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematical Science (Statistics, Actuarial Science and Operations Research) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her graduate studies focused on Survey Research and Data Analytics.