Course Details

Clinic Practice: Criminal Defense - The Death Penalty

Students will help defend indigent clients in state and federal court who are facing execution. Death penalty defense is complex litigation, comprising many different and challenging tasks, and the work to be done will vary from case to case and month to month. Thus, students may research, draft, and revise legal pleadings such as appellate briefs, trial motions, clemency petitions, and applications for habeas corpus relief. At the same time, they may contribute to investigation and fact development - visiting clients on death row, interviewing witnesses, and evaluating evidentiary documents. Students will help brainstorm case strategy, to develop lawyerly judgment. They will generally work in teams, giving them a chance to sharpen the skills that foster effective collaboration - not just with other lawyers, but with professionals in allied fields. All these activities will also give us a rich opportunity to examine the ethical concerns unique to capital defense work and client relations. They will also give us occasion to reflect on the ways in which one may ground her work as a lawyer in her broader personal or political commitments. We expect our docket for 2014-2015 to include at least the following matters: federal appeals (in the Fourth and Fifth Circuits); state appeals (in Texas and Oregon);a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court; a federal habeas corpus proceeding in the Southern District of Texas (Houston), probably involving an evidentiary hearing to determine whether our client is intellectually disabled; and clemency applications to Texas Governor Rick Perry and President Barack Obama. To the extent our budget permits, students will travel to meet with clients and to perform case-related work. Weekly class sessions may include presentations about ongoing casework or recent developments in the law of capital punishment, guest speakers, skills training, and discussions of topics relevant to capital defense. Although this clinic focuses on litigation, we aim to emphasize the broad range of settings, from the traditional to the unconventional, in which dedicated and courageous advocacy is possible. The clinic will be led by Clinical Professor Rob Owen, a lawyer with more than twenty years' experience defending clients in capital cases at every level of the state and federal court system, including successfully arguing four death penalty cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Second year students earn 3.0 credits. Third year students earn 4.0 credits. NOTE: There will be a mandatory clinic student orientation hosted by clinic faculty on Sunday, September 7, 2014 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.


Catalog Number: LITARB 735


Course History

Fall 2014
Title: Clinic Practice: Criminal Defense - The Death Penalty
Faculty: Owen, Robert C. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 4.0
Capacity: 6     Actual: 6



Spring 2014
Title: Clinic Practice: Criminal Defense - The Death Penalty
Faculty: Owen, Robert C. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 4.0
Capacity: 6     Actual: 7



Fall 2013
Title: Clinic Practice: Criminal Defense - The Death Penalty
Faculty: Owen, Robert C. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Credits: 4.0
Capacity: 6     Actual: 6



Fall 2011
Title: Clinic:Criminal Defense
Faculty: Owen, Robert C. (courses  |  homepage)
Section: 1     Type: Clinic     Credits: 4.0
Capacity: 4     Actual: 4