March 28, 2018

Project's joint Capital Clemency Resource Initiative launches website focused on clemency in death penalty cases

Our Capital Clemency Resource Initiative(CCRI) launched its website, www.capitalclemency.org, this week. The CCRI's new site is designed to improve the public’s understanding of clemency in death penalty cases and provide critically needed resources for lawyers and other stakeholders.

After completing our State Assessments and tracking cases across the country, the Project found that, despite clemency’s historic role as the criminal justice system’s “fail safe” to prevent unjust sentences from being carried out, access to accurate information on clemency in death penalty cases has long been inadequate. To address these unmet needs, the Project came together with two other ABA entities—the Death Penalty Representation Project and the Commission on Disability Rights— in 2015 to form the CCRI.

ABA President Hilarie Bass - “While our Association does not take a position on the death penalty generally, we do believe that every stage of a capital case – from arrest to execution – should be carried out with the utmost care. Clemency is supposed to be a critical part of this consideration, and our profession needs to do more to ensure that it is a meaningful review.”

“Unfortunately,” according to Laura Schaefer, counsel for the CCRI and staff attorney for the ABA’s Death Penalty Representation Project, “clemency often ends up being a hollow part of the death penalty process, in part because the inmate’s lawyers are not adequately prepared to advocate for their clients before governors or parole boards. It became clear to us at the ABA that both defenders and decision makers are eager for more targeted resources to be developed in this area of death penalty law—particularly as recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of capital cases in which clemency has been granted.”

The site, www.capitalclemency.org, provides:

  • Jurisdiction-specific pages that provide details about clemency in 12 death penalty states, including the procedures for requesting clemency, the relevant decision-maker(s), prior significant grants or denials, demographics of the state, and other important factors that might affect clemency review;
  • Text-searchable clemency petitions from different states, tagged by “theme” and issues raised;
  • Relevant ABA reports, guidelines, and other policy recommendations;
  • Court decisions, academic and magazine articles, and other resources regarding clemency representation in death penalty cases; and
  • Specialized training materials for lawyers who are currently representing or interested in representing death row clients, including the CCRI’s exclusive publication, “Representing Death-Sentenced Prisoners in Clemency: A Guide for Practitioners.”

ABA President Hilarie Bass said: “While our Association does not take a position on the death penalty generally, we do believe that every stage of a capital case – from arrest to execution – should be carried out with the utmost care. Clemency is supposed to be a critical part of this consideration, and our profession needs to do more to ensure that it is a meaningful review.”

New information will be added to the website on a regular basis, including additional jurisdiction-specific pages for the other current death penalty states.  Additionally, the CCRI plans to create new tools specifically for clemency decision makers in the coming year. 

Our staff is also available to provide additional support and guidance to capital clemency stakeholders on an individual basis.

To read the ABA Journal's coverage of the CCRI website launch, click HERE.