The Human Rights Centre Clinic will be running a death penalty sentencing mitigation clinic this academic year in partnership with Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that provides free legal and investigative support to those facing execution and to those victimized by states’ counter-terror polices.
The death penalty is viewed by many human rights entities worldwide as a cruel, inhumane and degrading response to crime. With a series of resolutions adopted since 2007, the United Nations General Assembly has urged states to respect the international legal framework protecting the rights of those subject to the death penalty, to progressively limit resort to the death penalty and to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death.
Reprieve assists on death penalty cases worldwide, contributing to investigations and working to save clients from execution, through a combination of legal advocacy and public pressure.
The sentencing mitigation process is focused on eliciting evidence about an individual accused of a crime punishable by death, through a comprehensive life history investigation. Sentencing mitigation evidence is used by the defense to present evidence about why their client should not receive the death penalty. This process can reveal family histories of trauma, violence, and mental illness, often-hidden histories of violence, undiagnosed mental illness and developmental disabilities. This evidence is used to combat the claims that the individual deserves the worst kind of punishment, and is widely recognized as crucial to the death penalty process; in fact, the United States Supreme Court ruled that mitigation evidence is required in death penalty cases.
Over the course of the year, the sentencing mitigation clinic team will work with Dr. Alexandra Cox from the Department of Sociology, who is also a sentencing mitigation specialist, and Dr. Antonio Coco, from the Essex Law School, to be trained in obtaining and analyzing life history records, documents pertinent to a life history investigation, identifying witnesses and preparing for witness investigations, conducting reports on the countries where individuals are facing the death penalty, and working with local attorneys and consulates to provide assistance to the accused.
Applications for 2021/2022 are now closed and will reopen in 2022 for 2022/2023.
The clinic will run during the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms. Students will not be expected to participate during the vacations or during the examination period.
Members of the team will be trained by Dr. Alexandra Cox and Dr. Coco in conjunction with lawyers from Reprieve. They will meet via Zoom once a week during term time at a mutually agreed-upon time, and will receive regular Zoom supervisions from the project supervisors.
Participation in the clinic will require from students a commitment of approximately 40 hours of work (in total) over the course of three terms, in addition to 10 hours of contact time through meetings and seminars per term.