Depriving Death Row Inmates of Qualified Lawyers 'Abdicates Constitutional and Moral Responsibility'
House bill abolishes death penalty legal centers
Washington, DC (August 14, 1995) -- "Wanting to appear 'tough' on crime is one thing, but depriving people who have been condemned to death of the counsel they need is dead wrong. It's a moral embarrassment and an abdication of our nation's constitutional and moral responsibilities. It's beyond the pale," declared Robert Fogelnest, of New York City, in taking office as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
Fogelnest was reacting to news that the U.S. House of Representatives voted earlier this month to eliminate federal funding for the Post-Conviction Defender Organizations (PCDOs), specialized legal offices that provide qualified counsel to represent death row inmates in their federal habeas corpus appeals. The 20 PCDOs (formerly called Death Penalty Resource Centers) leveraged the $19 million Congress allocated to them last year by finding capable private attorneys to represent many inmates and providing these attorneys with a centralized source of guidance and materials.
"In the past few years alone, too many cases have come to light in which inmates, after spending years on death row, have been proven innocent of the crimes for which they were waiting at death's door," Fogelnest noted. "By ensuring the availability of lawyers with the motivation, experience, and resources to handle these life-or-death cases, PCDOs fulfill our nation's constitutional and moral responsibility to make real, even for the poorest among us, our legal system's safeguards against executing the innocent."
A June 1995 report from the Judicial Conference of the United States confirmed that appointment of counsel in federal capital habeas corpus cases is "necessary to fair and orderly review." And a 1993 Judicial Conference report found that PCDOs "provide invaluable services in an appropriate and cost-efffective manner" and have "streamlined the capital litigation process by expediting cases and avoiding costly repetitive legal proceedings."
Also beginning their terms as NACDL officers at the association's annual meeting in Snowmass, Colorado, on August 12 were:
Judy Clarke, President Elect. Ms. Clarke, the federal public defender in Spokane, Washington, and an expert and author in the area of federal sentencing law, recently took a leave of absence to assist in defending Susan Smith in Union, South Carolina.
Gerald B. Lefcourt, First Vice President. Mr. Lefcourt, a partner in Lefcourt & Dratel, of New York City, has defended clients ranging from the Black Panthers and Abbie Hoffman to defendants in murder, drug, organized crime and white collar cases.
Larry S. Pozner, Second Vice President. Mr. Pozner, a partner in Pozner, Hutt & Kaplan, of Denver, Colorado, has specialized in defending citizens accused of crimes for over 20 years and is the co-author of Cross Examination: Science and Techniques.
William B. Moffitt, Treasurer. Mr. Moffitt, a partner in Moffitt, Zwerling & Kemler, of Alexandria, Virginia, has represented members of Lyndon LaRouche's political party and the "Red Hot Chili Peppers" band and recently attracted national attention when he defended former United Way CEO William Aramony on embezzlement charges.
Edward A. Mallett, Secretary. Mr. Mallett, a solo practitioner in Houston, Texas, has defended all manner of criminal cases in his 25 years as a defense lawyer, including a 'skinhead' charged with murdering a Vietnamese teenager in Texas. He also co-chairs NACDL's Death Penalty Committee.
Elected to serve multi-year terms on NACDL's Board of Directors were:
Michael V. Black, of Phoenix, Arizona
Charles W. Daniels, of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Gary G. Guichard, of Atlanta, Georgia
Frank Jackson, of Dallas, Texas
Shaun S. McCrea, of Eugene, Oregon
Jeralyn E. Merritt, of Denver, Colorado
G. Fred Metos, of Salt Lake City, Utah
Marvin D. Miller, of Alexandria, Virginia
Dennis Roberts, of Oakland, California
David S. Rudolf, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Barry C. Scheck, of New York, New York
Burton H. Shostak, of St. Louis, Missouri
Martin G. Weinberg, of Boston, Massachusetts
Photos and additional biographical information on NACDL's officers and directors are available upon request.