December 31, 2011

25 Years of the Death Penalty Representation Project

Our Work

For 25 years, the Project has existed to provide death-sentenced prisoners with a voice.  Our work encompasses a range of issues to ensure that death row prisoners receive the competent and effective legal representation that is essential to fairness and justice.  As the Project marks our 25th anniversary, we celebrate the work of volunteer death penalty lawyers and the public and private defenders who work with us.  Together, we have made a difference in the lives of countless individuals and have paved the way for major reforms that increase the fairness and reliability of our criminal justice system.

We partner with judges and  bar associations to recruit volunteers.

In cities around the country, we hold informational meetings about how local law firms can participate in death penalty representation work.  Civil lawyers learn about the need for their assistance, how they can be successful despite a lack of death penalty or criminal law experience, and how rewarding the work can be.  Upcoming training seminars are listed on the Project’s website: penalty.

We provide technical assistance & resources for volunteer counsel.

The Project partners each volunteer law firm with experienced capital litigators for strategic assistance and local support.  We manage a confidential online practice area that includes case law analysis, topical research, FAQs, and training announcements. We also provide resources to volunteer lawyers and members of the defender community for national and local training and educational programs that focus on improvement of capital defense.

We work toward reform.

Improving the counsel systems that failed the men and women on our nation’s death rows is as important as finding competent lawyers.  We work with judges, legislators, bar associations, and lawyers in death penalty jurisdictions to champion meaningful reforms that will ensure the assistance of effective, well-trained, adequately resourced lawyers for all death row prisoners.  We support legislation and court rules that will eliminate caps on compensation and enforce meaningful qualification standards.  We work with pro bono counsel across the country to address structural problems with state counsel systems.  Our goal is to ensure that every jurisdiction with the death penalty adopts statutes, rules, and procedures that are consistent with the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases.  Generous funding from the Proteus Action League makes our work possible.