Clemency for Death Row Inmates to be Discussed

Release Date: March 21, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Lawyers involved in four highly publicized death-row cases, including the clemency plea of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, will participate in a panel discussion on "Executive Clemency in Capital Cases," organized by the Capital Advocacy Project in the University at Buffalo Law School.

To be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 27 in 106 O'Brian Hall on UB's North (Amherst) Campus, the discussion is free and open to the public. To register, send an email to ublaw.cap@gmail.com.

Panelists will include:

* Defense attorney Jonathan Harris, who represented death-row inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California. Williams, the former Crips gang leader, was denied clemency and executed in 2005, despite pleas from supporters who said he presented a compelling portrait of redemption and rehabilitation.

* Defense attorney Sarah Nagy, who in 2005 won clemency for Arthur Baird, a mentally ill death-row inmate in Indiana. Baird was granted clemency just 36 hours before his scheduled execution.

* Cornell University Associate Law Professor John Blume, who recently argued a case before the Supreme Court involving South Carolina death-row inmate Bobby Lee Holmes. In his criminal trial, Holmes was prevented from presenting evidence that a third party committed the crime for which he was convicted, although forensic evidence implicated Holmes.

* Connecticut attorney Harry Weller, who prosecuted confessed serial killer Michael Ross. Ross was executed in 2005 after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected last-minute appeals from his relatives.

UB Law Professor Teresa Miller will moderate the discussion.

The panel discussion is intended to raise awareness about various defects in the capital punishment system, according to third-year UB law student Jenny Mills, founder and co-president of the Capital Advocacy Project.

"Clemency rarely ever is granted, even in cases where there is a clear argument for clemency," says Mills, who last summer worked with death row inmates in Kentucky and created clemency materials for one inmate nearing his execution date.

"Because of the way the justice system is structured, inmates traditionally are barred from raising various claims during their appeals and post-conviction proceedings," she adds. "The clemency process is thus the only time they can raise certain issues, but it would appear that most clemency petitions are dismissed out of hand."

According to Mills, the goal of the Capital Advocacy Project is to bring awareness about the death penalty to fellow law students and the UB community. Project members focus on legal issues in the debate over capital punishment and are working on a research project involving aggravating factors in capital cases. When completed, the research will be disseminated to capital defense lawyers around the country.

Media Contact Information

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