ABA Death Penalty Representation Project

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 mission has been to improve the quality and availability of legal representation for persons facing possible death sentences. We do this by working to improve the systems that provide legal services to indigent defendants; to educate the bar and public about the crisis of counsel for death row prisoners; and to recruit, train and support lawyers to take on capital post-conviction cases as pro bono counsel.

There are currently more than 3,700 prisoners on death row in the U.S., and hundreds are currently without counsel. While each individual has the right to seek post-conviction review of his conviction and sentence, there is no federal constitutional guarantee that a lawyer be appointed in these proceedings. The Project has placed more than 130 cases with major law firms as volunteer counsel for capital post-conviction cases, and lawyers in smaller firms have signed on to draft appellate briefs, certiorari and clemency petitions. The Project ensures that volunteer attorneys receive guidance and support from an experienced capital litigator serving as resource counsel.

The Project also maintains several online resources for those interested in or currently representing capital clients. These include:

  • County(s) of Volunteer Opportunity: Aitkin, Anoka, Becker, Beltrami, Benton, Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chippewa, Chisago, Clay, Clearwater, Cook, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Jackson, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Mahnomen, Marshall, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pennington, Pine, Pipestone, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, Saint Louis, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona, Wright, Yellow Medicine
  • Area of law: Civil Rights, Criminal Appeals, Death Penalty, Prisoners
  • Populations Served: Low Income, Working poor and unemployed, Indigent prisoners on death row without attorneys
  • Opportunities For: Lawyers, Mentors
  • Need for non-English services: Spanish
  • Hours for Pro Bono Opportunities: varies
  • Malpractice insurance is provided for volunteers: No
  • Training Provided: Yes
  • Training Required: No
  • CLE credit for trainings: Yes
  • Training / Supervision Comments: Many training programs attended by our volunteers award CLE credit. Every effort is made to obtain CLE credit for attendees of Project programs.
  • CLE credit for pro bono: No
  • Mentoring or supervision offered: No
  • Volunteer lawyers need to meet a caseload or hours requirement: No
  • Long Distance Opportunities: Conduct Research, Draft or Translate Legal Documents
  • Volunteers may participate long-distance: Yes
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