Capital Case Litigation Initiative

NACDL provides training and technical assistance for state-level capital defense teams, based around its Bring-Your-Own-Case training programs.

NACDL supports capital defense practitioners and death penalty reform through its Capital Case Litigation Initiative (CCLI). The CCLI provides training and technical assistance to state trial-level capital defense teams.


The CCLI provides Bring-Your-Own-Case training programs to state trial-level capital defense teams. The entire team must attend these programs, where team members receive information on relevant law, practical skills, and fundamentals of investigating and presenting evidence during both phases of a capital case; they also force defense teams to think on their feet, in concrete terms, about how they will defend their client. The BYOC model asks defense teams to think in real time and real terms about vital components of capital defense like mitigation strategy, communicating with clients and family, conducting effective investigations, and other topics that will make the difference between effective representation at trial or costly post-conviction and appellate litigation.

BYOC programs involve plenary sessions as well as small group workshops. The curriculum includes substantive components in relevant topic areas such as mental health disorders, culture investigation, and cognitive limitations such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and intellectual & developmental disabilities. Additionally, the program will focus on those talents and techniques that will foster a meaningful and effective attorney-client relationship and ensure the cohesiveness of the team. 

1 Training and technical assistance under the CCLI is supported by Grant No. 2018-CP-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justices, The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office of Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Historically focused on live, in-person programs, the CCLI will continue to offer virtual BYOC training programs during the COVID pandemic.1

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Technical Assistance

Teams that participate in BYOC training programs are eligible to receive ongoing technical assistance from national experts in law, mitigation, investigation, mental health, and other relevant topics.1

Changing the Shape of the Death Penalty

NACDL believes that one of the best ways to accomplish any kind of criminal legal reform is by raising up the people in the front lines of the criminal legal system itself. By supporting criminal defense practitioners in their everyday work, NACDL helps capital defense teams force the criminal legal system to come to terms with the facts and contexts of their clients' lives that remind us again and again of the myriad reasons that the death penalty is an inappropriate punishment.

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As capital defense teams are better able to advocate on behalf of their clients, the criminal defense helps to reform the parts of the American criminal legal system that are most prone to injustice.

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