Information for Students

Students who enroll in the year-long Death Penalty Clinic program work under the supervision of Elisabeth Semel, the Clinic Director and Clinical Professor of Law, Ty Alper, Associate Director and Clinical Professor of Law, Clinical Teaching Fellow Bidish Sarma, and investigators and paralegals who are members of the legal teams assigned to individual cases. Students work on capital cases at trial, on direct appeal, and in post-conviction, and occasionally on other matters relating to the death penalty and criminal law. Students review trial records, interview clients and witnesses, examine evidence, work with experts, and prepare habeas corpus petitions, motions and briefs. The Clinic is counsel or co-counsel for several individuals who are under a death sentence, and sometimes serves as counsel in additional litigation, such as representing amici curiae in capital cases before the Supreme Court.

Students
DPC students working late following a long day of witness interviews in Virginia

The Clinic is administered like any law office and students must adhere scrupulously to rules regarding privilege and confidentiality. They will learn case management skills and should be prepared to work according to the demands of the litigation, including during breaks, when necessary. Our expectation is that students will work a minimum of 16 hours per week, though the actual number of hours may vary from week-to-week. Students should also expect to travel, including during school breaks. Because of the demands of our cases, Clinic students may not enroll concurrently in another clinic or field placement. We will also screen students for potential conflicts of interest.

Students enrolled in the Clinic (4 credits per semester) must also enroll in the Death Penalty Clinic Seminar, which is given each semester (2 credits each semester). The Seminar provides the theoretical foundation and skills training for the Clinic. In the fall, the Seminar meets Wednesdays from 3:35 – 5:25 p.m. In addition, students will meet for case rounds approximately every other week throughout the entire year.

Enrollment in the Clinic and Seminar is by permission. Prerequisites are Criminal Procedure and Evidence. We give preference to students who have taken Capital Punishment and the Constitution and/or Post-Conviction Remedies.

We accept applications only in the spring semester for the following fall and spring semesters. We do not accept applications in the fall semester. We will ask to meet with some students before making enrollment decisions. Notification of decisions will be made no later than the end of April. The Seminar and the Clinic are CR/NC.