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Death Penalty

Join this site if you are a defender, volunteer attorney, legal services advocate, law student or faculty working on a capital case. There are resources here to help you.


Hosted by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, this practice area contains a password-protected online library of legal materials, as well as other information useful to lawyers for individuals facing a death sentence or who are currently on death row. The practice area was developed through the generosity of The Open Society Institute and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling.

Please join this practice area if you are currently representing a client on death row or facing the death penalty at trial.

If you are not a lawyer or not currently representing a person facing a death sentence or on death row:
Please feel free to peruse the areas of the site that are non-password protected: the calendar, news, descriptions of states with greatest need, and the other links on this page.

Pro Bono Opportunities for Lawyers:
The need for pro bono firms continues to grow. Dozens of persons on death rows throughout the country are without counsel. Many more have been appointed attorneys who lack the training, experience or resources to provide effective representation. While each individual has the right to seek post-conviction relief of his conviction and sentence, there is no federal constitutional guarantee that a lawyer be appointed in state proceedings. State post-conviction proceedings are often the first real opportunity for prisoners to establish their innocence or demonstrate constitutional errors that infected the capital trial.

If you are an attorney and you are interested in representing a prisoner on death row, or would like additional information, please contact us at:

ABA Death Penalty Representation Project
1050 Connecticut Ave. NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 662-1738
Fax: (202) 662-8649

Emily Olson-Gault (formerly Williams)


Christina Mathieson Hughes

Staff Attorney II

Shannon Redd

Staff Attorney II

Kaitlin Sandin
Project Associate

About Us: The Death Penalty Representation Project is the Association's expert on issues related to the defense effort in death penalty cases. Since 1986 its singular focus has been improving the quality and availability of legal representation for persons facing possible death sentences. Our efforts include domestic and international training and assistance, systemic reform, education, and recruitment of volunteers. There is no single factor affecting the fairness of the death penalty more than the competence and expertise of defense counsel. The Death Penalty Representation Project is proud to be the American Bar Association's expert and leader of the Association's efforts on this issue and related death penalty issues. Learn more >>

Current Caseload: Since 1998, the Representation Project has placed nearly 300 pro bono matters with private law firms across the country. An updated list of recruited law firms is available on the Representation Project's website. The majority of the matters placed by the Representation Project are capital post-conviction cases, which generally involve representation of an individual in state and/or federal habeas corpus proceedings. Additionally, the Representation Project seeks volunteer law firms to work on such matters as cert petitions, amicus briefs, clemency petitions, and discrete research projects. As a result of federal legislation during the past several years, it is more important than ever to secure qualified counsel at the state post-conviction stage. Many of the participants in this practice area come from the country's most prestigious law firms and have a long-standing commitment to due process and fundamental fairness.

Practice Area Host:

What's New

View our short video about the need for volunteer attorneys to represent individuals on death row and the benefits of working with the Representation Project.

2013 Year-End Brochure

View the Representation Project's 2013 Year-End Brochure here.

If you would like to be added to our E-Newsletter mailing list, please fill out and submit this short form.

Click here for current news alerts and recent studies and reports on capital punishment.

View and download copies of the 1989 and 2003 ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases.

To view/download lists and summaries of court cases which cite to the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, click here.

Glen McGinnis, on his twenty-first birthday

Photo credit: "Glen McGinnis. On his twenty-first birthday" by Ken Light. All copyrights reserved by Mr. Light. Glen McGinnis, who was 17 years old at the time of the crime, was put to death by the State of Texas on Jan. 25, 2000. He was the 205th individual executed in Texas since the reinstatement of the death penalty. Glen was represented by a pro bono firm in post-conviction proceedings. The ABA, which has a long-standing policy against the execution of those who were under 18 at the time of the offense, called for a grant of clemency.

Your tax-deductible financial contributions help provide the Representation Project with the resources we need to work toward equal justice for all. THANK YOU for your support!

Send contributions to:
ABA Death Penalty Representation Project
1050 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

or donate online!

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