School of Law announces establishment of new law clinic, program
to assist California inmates on death row
Janet Gilmore, Media Relations
- California death row inmates will soon receive legal representation
from one of the top law schools in the country, the University
of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall).
officials announced today (Thursday, January 4) the establishment
of the Death Penalty Clinic, where Boalt Hall faculty members
will supervise law students in investigating cases, interviewing
witnesses and launching death row appeals in state and federal
Penalty Clinic, scheduled to open July 2001, will be the first
such clinic in the state to be run by a law school.
an important opportunity for our students to gain first-rate,
hands-on criminal law experience and provide a service that
is central to our most cherished principles in criminal justice
- the right to a fair trial and equal protection under the
law," said John P. Dwyer, dean of the law school.
who has had experience working on death penalty appeal cases,
said the clinic will open after the law school hires a death
penalty specialist. A national search is underway.
law professor Charles Weisselberg, who directs the law school's
clinical center, also will join the new clinic's staff and
help lead the program. Weisselberg has more than 15 years
of experience representing criminal defendants in trial and
is a growing awareness that the death penalty and, indeed,
our criminal justice system in general is not always fairly
administered," said Weisselberg, "and so this seems to be
a very good time to start a program that will look closely
at the death penalty in California."
has been written about death row cases in Texas, Mississippi
and elsewhere, Weisselberg said capital punishment in California
also merits attention for several reasons. Among them:
585 inmates, California has the nation's largest number of
inmates on death row.
than 160 of California's death row inmates have no attorney
to represent them in their appeals.
* In recent
years California voters have expanded the categories in which
individuals may be sentenced to death.
said Boalt Hall is in an ideal position to work on death penalty
cases because of enormous student interest and enthusiasm
in the project. In addition, he noted that the law school
is within 15 miles of San Quentin State Prison, which houses
all of the state's male death row inmates.
a first-year law student at Boalt Hall, said she is looking
forward to the prospect of hands-on experience with a death
great learning experience for us," said Ray, "but, more importantly,
it affords some legal representation and a voice to people
who don't have the resources or the ability to speak for themselves."
will work on appeal cases from top to bottom. They will hit
the streets to search for important new evidence and seek
out mitigating information about an inmate's upbringing. They
will scour the legal record, evaluating the work of defense
attorneys, prosecutors and judges, all in an effort to ensure
that their clients - whether they appear innocent or not -
received a fair trial and sentence.
be selected carefully, with preference for cases with a strong
Northern California link. A local tie will facilitate investigations,
will not work on direct appeal cases - the automatic state
Supreme Court review that is confined to the trial court record.
Instead, they will focus on "habeas corpus" cases in which
defense counsel can explore issues beyond the trial court
record, including matters such as the discovery of new and
compelling evidence and the conduct of the prosecution and
W. Barnett, president of the American Bar Association, said
strong legal representation for death row inmates is crucial.
looks to all segments of the legal community to respond to
the shortage of competent, adequately funded counsel in capital
cases," Barnett said. "The association is extremely pleased
that Boalt Hall has established a capital punishment clinic,
which will train law students to become skilled defenders
in this demanding area of litigation and will also make a
vital contribution in securing due process and fundamental
fairness for those who face the death penalty."
has been funded by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Nick
McKeown and Peter Davies, who were brought together by a common
desire to abolish the death penalty in California and the
United States. For now, they want to ensure that inmates receive
fair treatment under the law. The donors chose Boalt Hall
because of its strong commitment to clinical education.
penalty clinic will engage students in capital defense cases
and, at the same time, educate the next generation of criminal
defense lawyers," said McKeown.
and Davies, who have donated more than $1 million, plan to
fund the death penalty clinic for at least five years. Boalt
Hall's clinical education program includes the International
Human Rights Law Clinic and the Samuelson Law, Technology
and Public Policy Clinic.