October 01, 2009

Pro Bono Spotlight - Death Penalty Appeals

Baker & Daniels lawyers and summer associates work on pro bono legal research projects for the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center (formerly the Center for Capital Litigation) in Columbia, South Carolina. The Center represents death-sentenced inmates in state post-conviction proceedings and is dedicated to promoting a fair and just criminal system for capital defendants. Emily Paavola, the Center's executive Director, is a former Baker & Daniels associate and maintains close ties to the firm.

Baker & Daniels' volunteers assist in all aspects of the Center's representation of capital defendants, including factual investigations, research, briefing and witness preparation. In 2008, a team of nine summer associates worked on several pro bono legal research projects for the Center, including one case where research performed on forensics issues helped to qualify the case for the Innocence Project. A team of lawyers prepared and filed an amicus brief on behalf of numerous ethics professors on an appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court and oral argument was held in June 2009.

In 2009, Baker & Daniels offered two fellowships through its pro bono and public interest program, permitting two summer associates to spend two weeks in South Carolina assisting with the Center's death penalty appeals. The fellows participated in a number of out-of-office activities, including conducting witness and juror interviews, visiting death row to meet with their clients, assisting with record searches and collection and observing oral argument. Each fellow completed one research and writing project over the course of the summer. The fellows conducted a presentation and post-fellowship briefing, discussing their work and experiences.

Related Non-Lawyer Professionals:

  • Kristen Atteberry
  • Howard Trivers

Information about the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center

The Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a fair and just criminal justice system for capital defendants. Their mission is to improve the quality of representation afforded to indigent defendants who are charged with a capital crime or who are currently under a sentence of death. The Center works toward this goal through three core activities:

Direct Representation - Resource staff directly represent death row inmates at all levels of the appellate process, concentrating primarily on state post-conviction and federal habeas corpus proceedings. The Center provides consulting services to other attorneys working on capital cases and work with teams of pro bono attorneys who assist local counsel in direct representation.

Resources & Training - The organization serves as a resource center for attorneys appointed on capital cases. Attorneys, students, and other interested persons can access a wide variety of resource materials from us. The Center also sponsors training programs and seminars on capital defense issues, which are designed to give capital defense teams the tools they need to effectively advocate for their clients.

Policy Reform - The Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center advocates for policy changes aimed at addressing systemic flaws in the capital punishment process. Staff members and volunteers also participate in public education and awareness through public speaking engagements, publications and other joint projects with educational institutions.

Emily C. Paavola is the current Executive Director of the Death Penalty Resource & Defense Center. Ms. Paavola is a graduate of Baylor University and Cornell Law School. After law school, she served as a Project Fellow for the Cornell Death Penalty Project in Ithaca, New York and worked as an associate in the business litigation practice group at Baker & Daniels LLP in Indianapolis, Indiana. Former Directors include John H. Blume, Teresa L. Norris and Susan B. Hackett.

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