Beacon of Justice Award, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, 2008
Zuckerman Spaeder LLP was among the firms honored with the 2008 Beacon of Justice Award by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA). This award recognizes the firm’s exemplary commitment to providing pro bono representation to death row inmates. The award was presented at NLADA's Exemplar Awards Dinner on June 11.
Zuckerman Spaeder's work on behalf of defendants eligible for the death penalty and death row inmates includes the following:
- Lawyers at Zuckerman Spaeder have represented a 75-year old woman convicted of murder on death row in North Carolina since 1994. The firm's investigatory efforts on this client's behalf have entailed hundreds of hours of door-to-door interviews and have uncovered evidence that the trial judge had frequent ex parte contact with the jurors and that another individual had confessed to some of the crimes of which the client stands accused. The firm litigated claims of ineffective trial counsel and the denial of a fair trial and sentencing proceeding on state habeas review, and will continue representing her as the case moves to federal court.
- Zuckerman Spaeder joined a national effort led by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Death Penalty Representation Project in August 2006 to ensure that a 2005 amendment to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., does not eradicate state prisoners’ access to collateral review of their capital sentences in federal courts. Zuckerman Spaeder is responsible for evaluating the state of Mississippi's post conviction process for capital prisoners and, if necessary, challenging any attempt by the state to opt in to the limited habeas regime.
- In 1997, Zuckerman Spaeder represented the lead defendant in a seven-defendant superseding indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore. The client was charged with leading a decade-long drug trafficking and racketeering conspiracy, in addition to being charged with committing one murder personally and being involved with at least two more—allegations that made him eligible for the death penalty. Zuckerman Spaeder presented the case against the death penalty to representatives of the Attorney General at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., who ultimately chose not to seek the death penalty.
In addition to these and other earlier representations of individuals accused of capital crimes or sentenced to death, Zuckerman Spaeder also supports death row inmates through amicus briefs and volunteerism with groups such as the Fair Trial Initiative, which provides internships, fellowships, and other opportunities for attorneys to assist in representing indigent defendants in capital trials.
For more information about NLADA and the Beacon of Justice Award, please visit www.nlada.org.