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December 22, 2014; Vol. 13 No. 12

NACDL Announces New Initiatives in the Aftermath of Recent Police Killings

Like much of the nation, NACDL has noted the furor over recent cases in which unarmed black men were killed by law enforcement. While NACDL does not comment on pending investigations, as is the case on the federal level as respects the deaths of both Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the Association has long had concerns about the integrity of the grand jury process and the overwhelming influence of prosecutors over that process and its outcomes, and has long advocated for reform of the grand jury process to ensure fundamental fairness.

Building upon NACDL's leading role in addressing all manner of racial and ethnic disparities in America's criminal justice system, on December 10, NACDL President Theodore Simon announced plans for a publicly broadcast webinar on grand jury practice in America. "The rules of the road by which criminal charges are considered must be fair and transparent, and must be one that commands the respect of the entire public in all cases. The recent episodes in New York and Missouri provide ample justification for a national reconsideration of the grand jury process," Simon said. This webinar will build on NACDL's earlier work on grand jury reform, which includes the issuance of two reports: Federal Grand Jury Reform Report & Bill of Rights (2000) and Evaluating Grand Jury Reform in Two States: The Case for Reform (2011).

In addition, Simon announced that the Association will establish a working group to study and develop NACDL policy as respects police body cameras, to include investigation and recommendations as to their use (how, when, and under what circumstances), the storage and maintenance of those recordings, their accessibility as public records, and consideration of privacy rights.

More information about NACDL's initiatives and the Association's extensive work to address racial and ethnic disparities can be found here.


Report Underscores Why America Must Never Again Engage in Torture

On December 9, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a heavily-redacted 500-plus page executive summary of a several thousand page report that was five years in the making. In it, the Committee details, among other things, that (i) conduct amounting to torture was in fact carried out by the CIA, (ii) the techniques were not effective and indeed often resulted in fabricated information, and (iii) significant information about the program provided by the CIA to both Executive and Legislative Branch officials, as well as the public and the media, was misleading, including concerning its degree of brutality.

Following the report's release, NACDL President Theodore Simon said: "No longer can the press, the public or policymakers euphemistically refer to certain CIA conduct set forth in this report as 'enhanced interrogation techniques.' Even the un-redacted portions of the executive summary released today lay bare the truth of this horrific and shameful chapter in American history. It is also clear from the extent of the redactions and the failure to disclose the almost 7,000 page report that the American people and the world may never know the full extent to which the United States undermined the very rule of law it was instrumental in formulating. While the contents of today's report represent a profound departure from the principles upon which our society is based, by providing a more comprehensive accounting to the public, this report reinforces all of the reasons why America must never again engage in torture."


NACDL Joins '90 Million Strong Campaign' Against the Death Penalty

At an event on December 9 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, NACDL officially joined in the launch of the "90 Million Strong Campaign" against the death penalty in America. Organized by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), the campaign's goal is to bring together the millions of Americans who believe the death penalty is wrong, but who have not yet taken action to abolish it. The campaign seeks to build upon the growing momentum away from capital punishment –  31 states and the District of Columbia either do not have the death penalty or have not executed an individual in the past five years and six states have abolished the death penalty over the past decade.

Speaking at the launch event, NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: "The practice of government-sponsored execution has no place in any modern criminal justice system. No one knows better than defense lawyers that the criminal justice system is fallible. It is rife with human error at every stage, and it perpetuates racial and ethnic disparity. We simply cannot allow such a system to engage in the taking of human life."

More information about the 90 Million Strong Campaign Against the Death Penalty, including how to join can be found at www.90millionstrong.org.


Clemency Project 2014 Applauds President Obama for Granting Eight Commutations; Calls on More Lawyers to Volunteer

On December 17, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners, and pardoned 12 others. These mark the first commutations the President has granted since the U.S. Department of Justice announced its clemency initiative in April of 2014.

"We commend President Obama for keeping his promise to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long sentences; terms of imprisonment they would not receive if sentenced today," said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014. "Federal sentencing laws and policies have changed, and the country has changed, but thousands of federal prisoners remain incarcerated under antiquated laws and ways of thinking about crime. We urge the President to commute more of the unjust sentences faced by federal prisoners."

Clemency Project 2014 is a working group composed of lawyers and advocates including the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties UnionFamilies Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations. It launched in January, after Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole asked the legal profession to provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentence if they had been sentenced today. The goal is to recruit and train lawyers to participate in this project by providing assistance to inmates who meet the stated criteria (which are available at the CP 2014 website www.clemencyproject2014.org).

At this very moment, Project staff is sifting through more than 26,000 requests for assistance from federal inmates, nearly 5,000 of which are currently under attorney review to ascertain whether they meet criteria announced by the DOJ. Although many of these inmates will not, it is likely that hundreds, perhaps thousands, will. While some 1,500 attorneys have already volunteered for the Project, the job cannot be completed without your help.

Please join this historic opportunity to reverse the unduly harsh prison sentences that were imposed upon so many. To volunteer please sign-up at the above website or send an email to volunteer@clemencyproject2014.org.    


NACDL Board to Conduct Special Election in February

NACDL’s Board of Directors will conduct a special election at its 2015 Midwinter Meeting to fill one vacant position on the Board of Directors, and to fill the vacant Treasurer position. NACDL members interested in being considered for this election can learn more at www.nacdl.org/elections.


2015 NACDL Election

NACDL’s 2015 regular election is underway. In 2015, NACDL will elect 13 members of the Board of Directors, in addition to the President-Elect, First Vice President, Second Vice President, and Secretary positions. NACDL members interested in seeking office in the 2015 regular election can learn more at www.nacdl.org/elections.


NACDLConnect v. 2.0: Get Connected with Your Colleagues!

Network, exchange information, and discuss strategy with some of America's best-connected, most knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers! We are happy to announce major updates to the functionality of NACDLConnect, based on feedback from NACDL members!

  • Post and reply via email, whether in plain text, digest, or real-time mode
  • Add file attachments to your post from your email client
  • Better handling of cookies to keep you logged into the system
  • New email format: Responsive design adjusts to optimize display for your device!

Get details and get engaged on NACDLConnect at http://connect.nacdl.org/faq1


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