Death Penalty Clinic Gets an "Assist" in 10th Circuit Victory
The Death Penalty Clinic has assisted in a major victory for capital defendants in the Tenth Circuit. The clinic has been counsel in several cases that raised the question of whether people sentenced to death are entitled to lawyers in clemency proceedings and proceedings to determine whether they are competent to be executed. In these cases, the clinic represented attorneys who were counsel for death row inmates in Texas. The Texas lawyers had been appointed under a federal statute to continue as counsel as the cases moved into federal court.
In December 2002, the Supreme Court declined to review the clinic's petitions. However, the issue remained very much on the front burner of capital litigation. The clinic's briefing was recently used by lawyers in the Tenth Circuit who successfully challenged the denial of counsel in state clemency proceedings in Oklahoma. On January 23, 2006, the Tenth Circuit in Hain v. Mullin issued an en banc decision, agreeing with the clinic's position. Steven Presson, one of the lawyers in Hain, said that the clinic's work "saved hundreds of hours of research and writing and allowed us to get a winning brief before the en banc court in less than 30 days. We couldn't have done it without the clinic's help. It was The clinic's work that got us this landmark win."1/25/2006