Information for Students

Students who enroll in the yearlong Death Penalty Clinic work under the supervision of Co-Directors Elisabeth Semel and Ty Alper, Interim Deputy Director Mridula Raman, 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.

The clinic is administered like any law office and students must adhere 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 if necessary. We expect students to commit at least 16 hours per week to case work, though the actual number of hours may vary from week to week. Students should also expect to travel, possibly 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. The seminar meets Wednesdays from 3:35 p.m. to 5:25 p.m throughout the year. In addition, we may have occasional lunchtime sessions.

Enrollment in the clinic and seminar is by permission and for rising 3Ls only, except in extraordinary circumstances. Criminal Procedure (either Investigations or Adjudication) and Evidence are prerequisites for rising 3Ls. 

We accept applications only in the spring semester for the following school year. We do not accept applications in the fall semester. We will ask to meet with some students before making enrollment decisions, and we will notify students of decisions by the end of April. 

The seminar and the clinic are CR/NC.