Washington, DC and Atlanta, GA (January 30, 2012) – The National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) announced today that they will partner in providing intensive training for capital defense teams in underserved jurisdictions. The two groups will also provide follow-up technical assistance to ensure that capital defenders have access to resources and the capacity to consult with experienced capital defense litigators at all phases of the case. The partnership, which is made possible by a federal grant awarded to NACDL, will result in direct support for approximately 60 capital defense teams across the nation. The training component of the program will be designed in collaboration with the National Consortium for Capital Defense Training.
The defense of a capital case is extraordinarily demanding and complex. A capital case consists of not one trial, but two – a guilt-or-innocence trial and, if necessary, a penalty trial. Because of the irrevocability of the death penalty, capital cases require unique levels of investigation and preparation by defense counsel. Capital cases are governed by their own evidentiary and procedural rules, and involve specialized jury selection and jury instructions. As a result, the defense of a death penalty case demands greater resources, skills and training than any other kind of criminal case.
NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said, “This new partnership is wonderful news for the lawyers and their teams who are on the front lines in the struggle against the death penalty. The Southern Center for Human Rights brings unmatched expertise in all aspects of capital defense to this project. The coupling of that expertise with the innovative and highly effective curriculum designed by the Consortium will provide cutting-edge support for capital defenders. While NACDL has provided support for the SCHR for many years, and collaborates on other training programs, this arrangement will enable the capital defense community to make the most of this federal support.”
SCHR Executive Director Sara Totonchi added, “We are delighted to partner with NACDL to bring innovative and effective curriculum to capital defenders across the country. We know that the most effective way to reduce the application of capital punishment is to halt new death sentences from ever being imposed. Through this partnership, we will offer intensive skill-building training that will provide capital defense teams with the necessary tools to make strong cases for their clients’ lives which will ultimately result in reduced numbers of new death sentences imposed nationwide.”
David Bruck, speaking on behalf of the National Consortium for Capital Defense Training said. “For some three decades, the lawyers and legal workers of the Southern Center for Human Rights have been an inspiration to everyone who has been working against the death penalty and for basic fairness in the American criminal justice system. They are tireless, creative, and courageous. This partnership with NACDL and the National Consortium for Capital Defense Training brings the most talented people to where they’re needed most---supporting the court-appointed lawyers whose capital clients are on trial for their lives. And it should bring us closer to the day when life and death is no longer decided by the adequacy of whatever legal defense the state happens to provide.”
Follow-up technical support will be available to capital defense teams who have participated in recent Consortium training programs held in Prairie View, Texas, Orlando, Florida, and a training program scheduled to be held in mid-March in Phoenix, Arizona. A fourth training will be held later in the year in a location to be announced. Under the new arrangement, consultation support and web-based training will also be available upon request for other capital defenders throughout the nation.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.