The Death Penalty Clinic was founded in 2001 on the principle that the right to a fair trial and equal protection under the law are core societal values. Through individual representation and impact litigation, the clinic puts this principle into practice. Our mission is to offer a program that helps students develop outstanding legal skills and to serve clients facing capital punishment. Our students gain a strong social justice orientation and the skills necessary to provide vigorous, professional, and high-level representation to their clients.
In response to a critical shortage of qualified and adequately funded counsel for individuals on death row, the clinic’s initial focus was on representing men and women in post-conviction proceedings in states with the fewest resources. Over the past two decades, clinic faculty and students have advocated on behalf of death-sentenced clients in Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. The clinic then grew its docket to include assistance to clients facing the death penalty at trial, and has done so in Alabama, California, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia.
The clinic also filed amicus curiae briefs in the United States Supreme Court and California Supreme Court in cases involving challenges to discriminatory jury selection, race discrimination in the administration of the death penalty, and methods of execution. Recently, the clinic expanded its reach into policy advocacy with the publication of a report on racial bias in the exercise of peremptory challenges in California and successful support for AB 3070, legislation that will revolutionize this aspect of jury selection in criminal trials in the state.
The companion seminar engages students in the relevant substantive capital punishment law; habeas corpus practice and procedure; and the fundamentals of death penalty litigation, including fact investigation, interviewing skills, and the development of mitigation evidence.