Capital Litigation

Most of our practice is dedicated to capital litigation, which is why it has been important to me that we build a solid foundation for our clients. Jackie handles all of our investigation work on death penalty cases - whether court appointed or retained. He is involved from the very beginning with client interviews and crime scene documentation. He quickly assists with witness location and interviews because discovery materials in most cases will not be received until after return of the indictment. We gather as many details as we can through testimony at the preliminary hearing, but an experienced investigator makes all the difference in early trial preparation.

We have a couple of qualified mitigation specialists who we trust and with whom we work well. These professionals are qualified and competent to testify in Court. As part of the defense team, the mitigation specialist's role is to compile a comprehensive and well-documented psycho-social history of the client. This is based on a full investigation (which includes spending time with the client, interviewing the client's family, friends, neighbors, old classmates as well as gathering medical, school and employment records, etc.). Mitigation specialists illustrate our client's story in a way that helps jurys weigh the decision of Life or Death in the penalty phase. Engaging the right mitigation experts to our defense team has been a top priority for us.

There are several other experts that we have identified and worked with over the years who help with NGRI defenses, IQ testing, crime scene reconstruction, ballistics, etc. We have trusted professionals that we rely on for assistance in these areas and frequently seek funds from the Court to add them to our team, as needed, for clients.

Similarly, we've been lucky to work with some excellent attorneys in capital cases - both as first chair and as second chair. 

Bruce Gardner Receives ACDLA Beddow Award (w/Robin, Jackie and Jack)
Bruce Gardner Receives ACDLA Beddow Award (w/Robin, Jackie and Jack)

All death penalty cases are assigned two attorneys - each of whom must have specialized training and meet certain qualifications. By choice, I've worked most of my capital cases with Bruce Gardner (who is an excellent lawyer and close friend). We recently celebrated him for receiving the Beddow Award which is a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence for Criminal Defense awarded by the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (ACDLA). 

Someone recently asked how many capital cases we've handled over the years. I can honestly say that I have no idea. There have been too many to count. I know there are only 2 clients that are on death row. The first one was a 2009 case that tried in 2012 that neither Bruce nor I believed would result in a recommendation for death. My knees buckled and I could not recover. Jack was the same age as the client's oldest child. He was at a friend's house and the parents wouldn't let me leave with him that evening after court. I think about that particular client almost every day and still hope that his post-trial relief request is successful. He remains one of my favorite clients to this day. 

The second client had 19 counts of capital murder and his trial took a month for us to try in the summer of 2021. Bruce received the Beddow Award midway through the trial. There were 4 counts dismissed and 1 juror recommended LWOP instead of death. EJI is working on the appeal.