Poverty and the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty is a really touchy topic to touch base on. This is because some people are all for it and others think that it should be used as a last alternative. One of the main reasons people are against the death penalty is because they feel that poverty and the death penalty just do not mix. What this means is that if someone is not able to afford an attorney that is capable of representing them properly and innocent person may be executed. As a matter of fact, studies are showing that the quality of the representation is significant in determining if one will receive the death penalty. Luckily, the American Bar Association has created the Death Penalty Representation Project to help make sure that individuals who are facing the death penalty can be represented adequately.

Determining Whether or not a Person Will Receive the Death Penalty Based on Representation

When someone is facing the death penalty how they are represented plays a large part in whether or not they will actually receive the death penalty. If they do not have a lawyer that knows how to actually handle a death penalty case it is a good chance that they will receive the death penalty. This is why there are so many people on death row right now and it is also the reason as to why some innocent people have been executed.

Can Defendants in Capital Cases Afford Their Own Attorney?

Studies are showing that 99% of death row prisoners cannot afford to hire a lawyer (Association, 2011). As a result of this, serious problems with the fair administration of the death penalty have been documented for years (Association, 2011). Statistics show that the majority of prisoners on death row have backgrounds involving extreme poverty, neglect, violence and abuse (Association, 2011). Many of them also may suffer from addiction, mental illness, or other severe cognitive impairments (Association, 2011).

Court Appointed Attorney’s in Capital Cases

Many court appointed attorneys are not able to represent capital cases as well as private attorneys because they simply do not have access to the resources that they need. For example, in the state of Texas when the law firms that volunteer to help the Death Penalty Representation Project took on some of the inmate’s cases that were on death row the inmates were surprised to find that there were lawyers who could handle their cases adequately and actually cared about their cases (Association, 2011).

In many of the death penalty cases court appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, or just simply lack the experience that is needed for this type of trial. Think about how loaded court appointed attorneys are when they have just regular criminal cases. They have so many cases that some of the times they have to continue cases due to the fact that they were not even able to discuss anything with their client not to mention the fact that sometimes they are so busy that they do not even have time to meet their client before it is time for them to go to court. Preparing for a death penalty case takes lots of times and it is very important that the lawyers have the resources they need. If they do not have the time and the resources to prepare correctly it is very easy for an innocent person to be found guilty. This is why defendants in capital murder cases should be guaranteed that their court appointed attorney will be experienced in capital cases, be adequately compensated, and have resources needed to fulfill their obligations to their clients.

Constitutional Rights and the Death Penalty

Currently, there is no federal constitution right to counsel in state post conviction proceedings (Association, 2011). The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and guarantees of due process law and of equal protection under the law (ACLU, 2011).

About The Death Penalty Representation Project

The Death Penalty Representation Project is the heart and the soul of the justice system due to the fact that their mission is to help people who are facing the death penalty to have representation if they do not have it and to help those who do not have adequate representation (Association, 2011). They provide these services to people because they feel as though it is very important to the integrity of the justice system (Association, 2011).

The Death Penalty Representation Project was created by the American Bar Association in 1986. The goal of the Death Penalty Representation Project is to ensure that every person facing the death penalty has the assistance of an effective and skilled lawyer (Association, 2011). The project is able to accomplish these goals because 19 of the top 20 most profitable U.S. law firms partner with the project on death penalty cases (Association, 2011). Hundreds of death sentenced prisoners have received critical legal assistance through this outstanding project (Association, 2011). The project doesn’t discriminate who they help either. They help out people whose cases are popular as well as though who the average American may never hear about. Not to mention the fact that they help people who have tons of money down to people who have no money at all.


ACLU. (2011). The case against the death penalty. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/case-against-death-penalty

Association, A. B. (2011). 25th Anniversary Video. Retrieved November 1, 2011, from American Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/advocacy/other_aba_initiatives/death_penalty_representation.html

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