The Death Penalty Clinic allows reliable law students to litigate capital cases while providing the students an academic experience of a lifetime. Our program is the first such program in Florida and the first program in the nation to allow certified students to speak on the record on death cases. This clinic provides students with first class skills training, exposure to criminal courts and practice, opportunities to provide community service, and exposure to the realities of the death penalty. Invariably students come to see our clients as real human beings apart from their alleged crimes and successfully reconcile the two.
The Death Penalty Clinic further may provide capital attorneys and students the opportunity to litigate death cases with Professor Mourer, either as co-counsel or consultant. Currently, several other South Florida law schools are consulting with the University of Miami's Death Penalty Clinic in hopes of creating similar programs of their own. Together we can raise the bar on death penalty litigation and save lives.
The number of students will be limited carefully depending on the number of capital defense supervisors and the time availability of Professor Mourer to fully supervise each student and be involved in each case. Students must demonstrate the emotional maturity to cope with exposure to possibly disturbing or gruesome factual situations and depictions. Students will have client contact with clients accused of particularly serious and violent crimes, some of which may involve death or violence to young children. We further require that the student have ample client contact and communication. Students are required to have demonstrated writing and research ability, solid work ethic, flexible time schedule, enthusiasm to work in the area of criminal law and death penalty work, and genuine interest in defending the rights of the accused. Students may not work, volunteer or intern at any prosecuting agency while they are participating in the clinic. Additionally, students may not be a part of any credit bearing externship.
The clinic is graded and meets the writing or skills requirement. Students will be evaluated by their supervising attorneys and Professor Mourer. Factors for evaluation include the quality of students' work product, commitment, timeliness, and completion of all assignments. Completed time sheets and TWEN assignments will also be used in evaluation.
Class time will include case staffings and discussion, reflection and substantive death penalty topics. The class will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to litigate a death penalty case from start to finish, thoroughly and ethically. Discussion topics will include: mitigators, aggravators, client and witness interviewing, jury selection and instructions, mental health mediation, coping with the stress of capital representation, volunteers, and brain injury or trauma. The class will be 50 minutes per week. Students must sign up for the clinic TWEN page and submit assignments via TWEN.
Litigation skills and CLI status is preferable but not required. Students without CLI status will not be permitted to appear in court on behalf of clients. Non-CLI may participate in all other aspects of the clinic. Criminal Law is also preferred.
Edith Georgi-Houlihan, Dade County Public Defender's Office
Steve Harper, Dade County Public Defender's Office
Neil Dupree, Capital Collateral Resource Center
Richard Della Fera
Abe Bailey, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Third Region
Gene Zenobi, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Third Region
Phil Reizenstein, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counel, Third Region
Steve Yermish, Dade County Public Defender's Office
Clinic Director: Sarah A. Mourer firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Assistant: Sarah Cardone, email@example.com
Associate Professor, Sarah Mourer directs the clinic. She was a past training attorney with the Dade County Public Defender's Office where she tried over 75 jury trials as lead counsel including capital sexual battery, sanity, juvenile, and all levels of homicide.
3L Jennifer Lefebvre talks about her experience in this unique clinic.
The Florida Capital Resource Center is founded on the premise that more effective capital representation can be provided at decreased taxpayer cost by coordination, standardization, collaboration, and sharing of resources needed by defense attorneys. Capital trials are complex and costly, and additional taxpayer funding in the current economic climate is highly unlikely. Florida Capital Resource Center directly addresses the problem of providing effective and constitutionally required indigent capital defense in a beleaguered state economy. Visit the Florida Capital Resource Center's website.
In its first semester, two Miami Law students participating in the Death Penalty Clinic assisted Professor Mourer and capital attorneys in avoiding a death sentence for a client convicted of a particularly shocking and brutal murder. The client was convicted of raping and stabbing his wife 61 times. However, his brutal upbringing in connection with his chronic traumatic brain injury portrayed to the jury through state of the art technology compelled the jury. After a month long sentencing trial and only an hour of deliberation the jury recommended a life sentence. Students can save lives. Read more.
This clinic has been chosen by The University of Miami's Office of Civic and Community Engagement as Academic Service Learning Courses as it: