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December 01, 2019

Project Celebrates Champions of Capital Defense at Annual Awards Dinner

On September 19, 2019, the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project celebrated the extraordinary contributions of its pro bono attorneys and capital defender partners at its annual Volunteer Recognition & Awards Dinner at the historic Decatur House in downtown Washington, D.C. This year’s dinner brought together more than 100 pro bono attorneys, capital defenders, and supporters of the Project. Exceptional Service Awards were presented to volunteer law firms Skadden and White & Case in recognition of their longstanding commitment to high quality capital defense representation for their pro bono death row clients. Kelley J. Henry, Chief of the Capital Habeas Unit at the Middle District of Tennessee Federal Defender’s Office, received the John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award, first presented to Justice Stevens in 2011. ABA President-Elect Patricia Refo presented a special Project Leadership Award to longtime member and supporter, Ronald J. Tabak, in recognition of his decades-long commitment to death penalty advocacy and service to the American Bar Association.

Project Director Emily Olson-Gault provided welcome remarks reflecting on the Project’s recent milestone of 100 cases finalized with a sentence of less than death and the work still to be done. The event’s keynote speaker was Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a former public defender and civil rights litigator who has received national attention during his first 18 months in office for his commitment to criminal justice reform. In July, Mr. Krasner’s office filed a brief asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare that state’s death penalty unconstitutional because of issues related to racial bias, wrongful convictions, and lack of funding for indigent defense. Other notable speakers included Bryce Benjet, Senior Staff Attorney at the national Innocence Project, and Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Project is grateful for all the many law firms that sponsored the event and helped to make it a success, with special thanks to Defender-level sponsors Crowell & Moring, Skadden, and White & Case. Numerous individuals and organizations also made a special contribution to the project in honor of Ron Tabak and his receipt of the Project’s Leadership Award. All proceeds from sponsorships and donations will go directly to support the Project’s work of pro bono counsel recruitment, training, and systemic reform.

Click here for more details about the event, including photographs and the award winners’ accomplishments, and view the event program here.

Visit our event page to view photos, see event video, and much more!