Capital Clemency Resource Initiative

The Project is happy to announce launch of, the official website of the Capital Clemency Resource Initiative.

The Capital Clemency Resource Initiative (CCRI) is the first project exclusively dedicated to providing actors in the clemency process—attorneys and governmental decision makers alike —the resources and training necessary to ensure a meaningful process and reasoned decision in a capital-clemency case.

The CCRI's website serves as a clearinghouse for resources about capital clemency for the general public and includes a secured area with additional materials for capital clemency practitioners. 

For a comprehensive breakdown of capital clemency in the United States, check out our State Clemency Memos!

Clemency is deeply rooted in our Anglo-American tradition of law, and is the historic remedy for preventing miscarriages of justice where judicial process has been exhausted.

Herrera v. Collins

506 U.S. 390, 411-12 (1993)


The mission of the ABA Capital Clemency Resource Initiative is to address the troubling lack of resources and expertise available to practitioners and decision makers in the capital clemency process and—for the first time—to provide targeted, comprehensive, and current materials to guide stakeholders through this crucial last phase of the death penalty process.

To further this mission, the Initiative seeks to:

  1. Develop effective educational resources (or “Toolkits”) for capital defenders and clemency decision makers, which include both universal “best practices” and recommendations tailored to individual state practice;
  2. Design and host training programs for capital clemency counsel, responsive to the needs and concerns voiced by practitioners in the various states;
  3. Collaborate with capital clemency decision makers to ascertain interest in and provide support for specially-focused training programs, as desired;
  4. Educate the public and the legal profession more broadly on the importance of clemency in capital cases and the problems with its current use.
A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.

United States v. Wilson

32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 150 (1833)


Clemency serves a vital role in our capital punishment system by acting as a “fail-safe” to prevent unjust executions. Prior to the execution of a death-sentenced prisoner, it allows a governor or board of pardons and paroles to conduct a full review of the case and grant a reprieve, pardon, or commutation, free from some of the procedural limitations that may favor expediency over justice.

Despite its longstanding roots and significance in the American death penalty process, clemency historically has received relatively little focus compared to other stages of a capital case. As a result, the training and resources available to actors in the clemency process lag far behind those provided for the investigation, trial or appeals.

This lack of resources necessarily affects the quality of representation that individuals facing execution receive, as clemency advocacy is often distinct from litigation strategy. The lack of resources and focus on clemency also detracts from decision makers’ ability to give informed and reasoned consideration to the complex legal and factual issues raised in clemency petitions. Decision makers often have little or no formal guidance about the complicated and diverse factors they can and should consider when evaluating a petition for clemency in a death penalty case. Furthermore, the attorneys who present those petitions do not have access to focused training materials that address the unique aspects of the clemency process.

Thus, there is a critical and unmet need for education and training of both lawyers representing capital prisoners and decision makers who review petitions for clemency to ensure that this key phase of a capital case is meaningful and fair.


  1. State Clemency Memos*
  2. Clemency Petitions, Court Decisions, & Supplemental Materials
  3. Academic and General-Interest Articles
  4. Training Materials
  5. Practice Guides

*Note: only the state clemency pages and memos are available to the public. The other materials are specifically geared to attorneys representing death-sentenced prisoners and are only available if you have registered as a capital defender and are logged in.

States for which there are 
clemency memos:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, 
California, Colorado, Florida, 
Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, 
Mississippi, North Carolina, 
Nevada, South Carolina, 
Texas, Virginia

Contact Us

If you are interested in learning more about the Initiative, or if you are representing a client facing execution and would like to speak with us about our currently available materials regarding capital clemency, do not hesitate to contact us. To the extent that you have expertise and interest in this field, we encourage you to reach out to share your experiences and make recommendations as to where you believe help is most needed.

We look forward to working together with you to shape this incredibly important Initiative for death penalty practitioners and decision makers.

Laura Schaefer
Staff Attorney & Clemency Counsel
Death Penalty Representation Project
American Bar Association
1050 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400
Washington D.C. 20036
Tel.: (202) 442-3452