On October 26th, the American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project awarded the attorneys of the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) of the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Arkansas its 2017 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award. The award recognizes “individual lawyers who have demonstrated the kind of courage and commitment we associate with Justice Stevens.” The work of the six lawyers of the Arkansas CHU (Scott Braden, Julie Vandiver, John Williams, Jamie Giani, April Golden, and Jason Kearney) became national news when Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled eight executions to occur over an eleven day period last April before the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs expired.
Within a two month time period, the CHU lawyers represented, or assisted in representing, all of the condemned men by drafting over 100 filings, including method-of-execution litigation; clemency presentations; legal challenges to the clemency process; competency to be executed claims; and substantive claims in habeas proceedings. As a result of their commitment and dedication, the CHU was able to stay four of the executions, and eventually win clemency for one of the eight defendants.
The Training Divison provides resources to federal capital trial and capital habeas counsel through the Capital Defense Network.