Friday, February 15th, 2019

9:00am - 7:00pm

Case Consultations

Mary Alice

At this year's Capital Case Seminar, we are scheduling trial and post-conviction consultations on Friday, February 15 from 9am-7pm; however, we will try to accommodate requests for other dates and times. If you would prefer a date other than Friday, please let us know other possible dates and times. All case consultations must be scheduled prior to the conference.

The session will be facilitated by members of our seminar planning committee and other faculty from this year’s seminar. To help us prepare for the consultation, please complete this form, designate whether it is a trial or post-conviction case and return it to Mary-Alice Burns by February 1, 2019. All members of your team are welcome to participate in the consultation.

1:30pm - 2:45pm

1st Hundred Days/Organizing Your Case

Monnica Thelen

What do you do when you are assigned your capital case? This is a practical guide to how to organize your team, your files, and your case in the first 100 days. Presenters will share what they have learned from years of doing complex litigation including capital cases.

DNA: Foundations

Expert to be

Understanding the fundamentals of modern DNA testing is essential to the preparation of the defense and deciding upon a defense strategy. This session will focus on the basics of forensic DNA testing from sampling to the final interpretation of data, the surprising level of subjectivity often involved in this "gold-standard" forensic discipline, and how to integrate DNA results with different defense theories. The session will be most beneficial to trial and post-conviction lawyers but investigators may also find the information presented useful to their practices.

Goals and Foundations of Mental Health Assessments


Our client’s mental impairments and functioning frequently compels jurors to vote for a sentence less than death. Understanding these deficits and impairments is also essential to working with our clients towards a sentence less than death. This session will explore processes for uncovering and developing this information, communicating and working with clients with mental health issues, presenting mental health information to a prosecutor’s office and/or jury, and identifying and working with mental health experts. This session is designed for trial and post-conviction attorneys and mitigation specialists.

Mindfulness Training


"While “mindfulness” may seem like just the flavor of the month, it is in fact part of a meditation tradition that has been practiced and honed for millennia. This session will serve as a brief introduction to mindfulness - what it is, how it developed and (most important) how it can be of help to those of us doing the often-stressful work of defending people facing the death penalty. The session will include a period of guided mindfulness meditation. Appropriate for beginners and those who’ve done this kind of thing before."

The Capital Jury Project and Constructing a Case for Life Jurors Can Hear


This session will be an introduction for those not familiar with the Capital Jury Project and its findings on how jurors process mitigation. The lecture will focus on themes that jurors respond to and how to best present those themes so that jurors will respond positively in the jury room. Attention will also be given to how to anticipate the way jurors wanting a death sentence will argue in the jury room and how to best combat those arguments.

Tools of the Trade


This introductory session will provide an overview of many critical components of a competent life history investigation. We will share best practices for organizing these complex investigations, with practical examples including tips on how to create and use a players list, record log, chronology, document index, and genogram.

3:00pm - 5:30pm

Special Event Plenary: Implicit Bias & the History of Racism


Many people believe they know all about the American history of racism. By the end of this lecture that assumption will be severely challenged. This lecture will explore the roots of white supremacy that trace back to the year 1619. You will be presented with facts that demonstrate how our history has been obscured and sanitized to help us deny our history of racial hatred in America. The truth about the role white supremacy played in the founding of our nation is disturbing. What is even more disturbing is how virtually none of us has ever been taught that true history.

Once we understand our true, shared history we can also understand how the criminal justice system has been infected by America’s brand of racism. Understanding our true history is necessary if we want to change paths in the pursuit of true criminal justice. Knowing the complete truth about our past gives us the full and complete story of how we got to where we are on the issue of race in America in 2019. More importantly, knowing the full and complete truth about our past and how we got to 2019 is critical to a real understanding of what we need to do to move forward in a fair and equitable way.

7:45pm - 9:00pm

Welcoming Remarks



In 1962, James Baldwin wrote, "In order to deal with the untapped and dormant force of the previously subjugated, in order to survive as a human, moving, moral weight in the world, American and all the Western nations will be forced to reexamine themselves and release themselves from many things that are now taken as sacred, and to discard nearly all the assumptions that have been used to justify their lives and their anguish and their crimes so long." The United States capital punishment regime is inexorably bound up in these assumptions and crimes, no less so because death sentences and executions continue to decline and become ever more localized. What is our community's role in compelling this reckoning and what is courageous death penalty representation in 2019?

9:00pm - 11:00pm