News Release

Mary Ann Tally receives first NACDL Champion of Indigent Defense award

North Carolina defender cited for death penalty accomplishments 

Miami, FL (March 1, 2002) -- Mary Ann Tally of Fayetteville, N.C., was named the first recipient of the Champion of Indigent Defense award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers at the association's mid-winter meeting here last week.

Tally was cited for her work in maintaining resource systems for death penalty counsel in North Carolina as well as her career-long commitment to providing defense services to accused persons who cannot afford counsel.

In typical modest fashion, Tally gave credit to others for her achievements. "The work of Steve Bright [of the Southern Center for Human Rights] and Barry Scheck [co-founder of the Innocence Project] has changed the nature of the debate in indigent defense," she said in accepting the award. "The big sea change they have brought about over the last couple of years has made it easier to make a difference."

Tally began her career as a public defender in Fayetteville in 1974, as the first female public defender in North Carolina. She went on to serve as the first female president of The North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, and then as that organization's general counsel.

When a study commission was formed to address changes in North Carolina's indigent defense system, Tally played a lead role as a member. The result was implementation in 2001 of a new state system, which shifted control of indigent defense from judges to an independent entity. The new system is set up to provide for adequate compensation for attorneys, and to set standards and monitor quality within the system.

Tally's lobbying efforts on death penalty issues have produced significant reforms, including the elimination of the death penalty for mentally retarded persons in North Carolina. 

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NACDL Communications Department

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 legal system.