chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
March 01, 2013

Project to Launch New Online Resource for Capital Defenders

The ABA Death Penalty Representation Project has created an important new web-based resource for capital defenders and volunteer attorneys. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Bobby v. Van Hook that in order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a prisoner must show that his attorney's performance was deficient based on the prevailing professional norms at the time of the capital trial or appeal. Since that decision, locating evidence of those norms has become a particularly important component of most capital appellate and post-conviction cases. This task can be especially challenging in cases where the trial was held decades ago.

In response to this need, the Death Penalty Representation Project created the ABA National Capital Standards Database, a secure, web-based repository for historical and current capital defense standards. It includes more than 30 years of materials from training conferences, formal guidelines, articles about capital defense practice, and training manuals. These materials are fully text-searchable and indexed by title, author, year, conference, and geographical focus.

The website also contains indexed and searchable summaries of court opinions citing to the 1989 and 2003 ABA Guidelines and the 2008 Supplementary Mitigation Guidelines.

Access to the site is restricted to currently practicing capital defenders. To register for access to the website, visit and click the "Register" link in the upper right-hand corner. While waiting for approval, you can view the Help pages, which provide an overview of how to use the site. Project staff are also available to answer any questions.

The Project owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the many capital defenders who donated their materials for inclusion on this site. If you have additional materials that you would like to donate, please contact Emily Williams at [email protected] or 202..662.1735. We are happy to accept hard copy or digital files in any format. Thank you to everyone who helped make this resource possible!