A Fighting Chance

Poor people facing the death penalty typically receive woefully inadequate representation at the trial level due to a lack of effective investigation and mitigation development. A recent study of Louisiana public defenders showed that only one witness was interviewed by the defense per 200 felony clients! Facts change outcomes, both in terms of guilt or innocence, and in terms of a life or death sentence. In an experiment that provided thorough investigation from the point of arrest in 119 New Orleans death penalty cases, the conviction rate decreased dramatically, from 68% to 16%. One hundred defendants were released and charges were dropped. When judges and juries are not fully informed, the adversarial system fails, and devastating mistakes become inevitable. Death rows are populated by young men condemned because of what the jury did not hear because of the paucity of their defense rather than the severity of their crime.

Using a proven effective methodology, A Fighting Chance supplies facts to lawyers who hitherto assumed that facts came from police reports and should generally be avoided. We are provoking systemic change in the criminal justice system through the following steps: 1) achieving favorable results in specific cases, which introduces the actors in the system to the value of investigation, 2) litigating aggressively for adequate funding for investigation, which increases resources and shapes expectations for investigation, and 3) expanding the ranks of qualified investigators through recruiting, training, and supervision. We are working to level the playing field for the most vulnerable people in the justice system: indigent defendants facing the death penalty. Our clients urgently need qualified representation so their rights are protected.


Articles by A Fighting Chance