About Us

Kristen Nelson, Director—Prior to joining the Powell Project in 2018, Kristen Nelson served for six and a half years as a Deputy State Public Defender on the Complex Litigation Team for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender in Denver, which represents indigent clients at the trial level in complex felony cases, including those in which the State is considering or has declared it is seeking the death penalty.  As the designated appellate-minded lawyer on the trial team, Kristen was responsible for developing the legal issues in the case, drafting and arguing the motions, interlocutory appeals, and jury instructions, and providing legal analysis and input on other strategic decisions in the case.  Previously, Kristen spent four years as a staff attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, where she spent the majority of her time representing indigent clients in various stages of appeal on Alabama’s death row, as well as other criminal defendants and prisoners denied fair treatment under the law.  Kristen began her indigent defense career as a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia following a clerkship with U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson in the Middle District of Alabama.  Kristen received her undergraduate degree in English summa cum laude from Wellesley College in 1999, an M.Phil in Criminology from Cambridge University in 2000, and her law degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2004.

Julianne Hill, Assistant Director — Julianne joined the Powell Project in 2016. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and holds a master’s degree in Political Science from Arizona State University. During law school she was a student attorney with Harvard Defenders and the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project. She interned at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in California, which represents death-sentenced prisoners in state-level habeas proceedings, and at Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. She also participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic, the Criminal Justice Institute, and the Human Rights Clinic and completed a human rights fellowship in India. Prior to joining the Powell Project, she worked for human rights organization Reprieve focusing on issues of lethal injection and cases of foreign nationals facing the death penalty in the United States.

Celia Ouellette, Senior Consultant & Founder — Celia founded the Powell Project trial consulting program in 2015. Previously, Celia was a staff attorney at Reprieve, an international human rights charity. At Reprieve, Celia focused on the representation of capitally charged and condemned European nationals in the US and acted as a consultant to foreign governments. Formerly, Celia spent many sunny years practicing as a trial attorney in Southern California. Celia regularly engages in training and advocacy related to the death penalty, both domestically and internationally and, in particular, on matters concerning pre-trial practice. Celia holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oxford. Celia speaks fluent French and Spanish. She is licensed to practice in New York, California and several federal jurisdictions.

Gretchen Engel, Senior Consultant — Gretchen is the Executive Director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL) and serves as a senior advisor to the Powell Project in addition to consulting on individual cases. Gretchen joined CDPL in 1992, after graduating from Northeastern University School of Law and interning at the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Resource Center. Gretchen grew up largely in the Great Lakes region and received her B.A. from Oberlin College. In 2004, she received the Paul Green Award from the NC-ACLU Legal Foundation for her work against the death penalty.