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W&L Law to Host Capital Defense Seminar

The Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse (VC3) at Washington and Lee University School of Law will host a capital defense seminar Jan. 10 -12 at the law school.

Organized in partnership with the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center   in Charlottesville and funded in part through a grant from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance to UVA’s Institute for Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, the seminar will include a faculty of well-known capital defense practitioners from around the country. Out-of-state faculty includes Wilbert Rideau, Judy Clarke, Deborah Grey, Henderson Hill, Marc Bookman, Mark Olive, Dana Cook, and Russ Stetler.  From Virginia, Jerry Zerkin, Rob Lee and Tammy Krause are also participating.

Prof. David Bruck, who directs the VC3, W&L’s capital defense legal clinic, notes that this is the first such program in Virginia since 2008.

“This seminar will provide an opportunity for Virginia capital defense counsel to spend time working on their own pending capital cases with an outstanding national faculty consisting of top practitioners—investigators and mitigation specialists as well as attorneys—in the capital defense field,” said Bruck. “We hope the seminar will make a lasting contribution to the quality of death penalty defense representation in Virginia.”

The program will offer a mix of short, focused plenary sessions and facilitated small group workshops in which defense teams will analyze and brainstorm the important facets of their own case investigation, pretrial preparation and strategy. A number of defense teams currently representing capital clients at the pretrial stages throughout Virginia, and also from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina, have been invited to participate. Organizers expect over forty lawyers in all to attend the seminar.

The seminar is not open to the public as the “bring-your-own-case” format requires a setting in which sensitive case-related information can be shared and discussed. However, some of the large group lectures are open to anyone not affiliated with prosecution agencies. Please contact Prof. Bruck (bruckd@wlu.edu) to inquire about attending.

Since 1988, the VC3 has served as Virginia’s litigation resource center for lawyers representing defendants facing the death penalty at trial in both state and federal courts. W&L third-year law students work in two-member teams to assist court-appointed defense counsel with legal research, discovery analysis, drafting of motions and legal memoranda, client counseling, and many other tasks involved in defending death penalty cases at trial. Students also assist with appeals at the state, federal and U.S. Supreme Court stages, and in state and federal legislative research.

Prof. Bruck has directed the VC3 since 2004. Prior to coming to W&L, he practiced criminal law in South Carolina for 28 years, and specialized in the defense of capital cases at the trial, appellate and post-conviction stages. Over the course of his career, he has served as Richland County (Columbia, S.C.) Public Defender, as Chief Attorney of the South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, and since 1992 as Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel to the federal defender system nationwide.