This project is in partnership with Reprieve, a non-governmental organisation which provides free legal and investigative support to individuals facing execution, rendition, torture, extrajudicial imprisonment and killing. Its work includes the representation of European citizens facing the death penalty abroad.
The Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation Unit of the Human Rights Centre Clinic will provide support to Reprieve in its representation of European citizens facing the death penalty abroad. Sentencing mitigation work involves the preparation of comprehensive life history investigations of individuals facing criminal penalties. The Unit will be led by Dr. Alexandra Cox, who is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology.
Student participants in the Unit would include at least two undergraduate law students, two undergraduate sociology students, and two Masters students in Human Rights. The student participants in the clinic will assist Dr. Cox in her work on approximately two to three cases a year.
In particular, students will assist Reprieve in conducting life history investigations, engaging in legal and social science research, supporting anti-death penalty campaign work, and engaging with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about death penalty-related issues.
The Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation clinic students have been engaged in a range of activities over the last two years, in three core areas: backup support for legal teams in death penalty appeals, clemency matters, and parole hearings; legal research aimed at the preparation of a manual for defence attorneys working in Pakistan; media monitoring of death penalty cases around the world; scoping research about death penalty advocacy in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The individual support that students have provided has included the collection of life history records, the development of life-history chronologies, and social science research related to an individual’s life history.
All of this research has led to the preparation of a clemency petition for a man sentenced to death in Pakistan, a parole packet for a man previously on death row in Texas, and sentencing advocacy for a man going to trial in Pakistan.
A student accompanied team members to Italy to conduct life history about a man facing the death penalty in Italy and has participated in advocacy with the Italian government in his case.
Students were able to receive training through the organization Amicus, which supports the training of UK-based individuals to engage in death penalty work in the United States.
Students conducted legal research to support the development of a manual for defence attorneys in Pakistan representing people facing the death penalty, and clinic director Alexandra Cox travelled to Islamabad in February 2020 to present a draft of the manual to lawyers, and to train members of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in sentencing mitigation principles.
Students have also engaged in media monitoring of the uses of the death penalty in South Asia and supported the Reprieve team in their scoping research about the death penalty in the region.
The participants in the Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation clinic will be expected to prepare detailed casework memoranda connected to the various project tasks, which could include:
Through their participation in the clinic, students will acquire several key practical skills as well as develop their theoretical knowledge about law and the social sciences, and the role of mitigation in the law.
The practical skills the students will develop will focus on the ways to effectively develop a comprehensive life history of an individual accused of a crime, including archival research, data collection, and interviewing skills.
They will also gain broader skills of advocacy around the death penalty which are attuned to both the individual case and the broader context of the penalty.
Students will also be trained in the effective analysis of life history records, the building of genograms and life history maps, and the significance of life history for the criminal case.
They will also acquire broader knowledge about the role of the social sciences in sentencing work, and the relationship and tensions between macro and micro level social histories.