Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project
The Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project was established in 2001 to involve law students in the interim reform, and ultimate abolition, of the death penalty in the United States.
Professor Steven F. Shatz
The project is directed by Professor Steven F. Shatz, who holds the Philip & Muriel Barnett Professorship at USF, where he teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Death Penalty Law. He is co-author of a casebook and articles on the death penalty and has appeared as an expert witness in capital cases. The principal program of the project has been the Southern Internship Program, which each summer sends 6–10 law students to work with capital defense attorneys in the South.
Listen to Professor Steven Shatz, director of the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project, and students Ashley Connell, Class of 2010, and Natalie Davis, Class of 2010, discuss their experiences working on death penalty cases in the American South at a USF School of Law Justice Forum. The event introduced students to internship opportunities.
Southern Internship Program
the spring, students attend four training sessions covering a range of issues
in death penalty law and practice. In the summer, students are sent in pairs to
spend 10 weeks working at the offices of capital defense lawyers in the South.
Each student is assigned to work with one or more attorneys on the attorneys’
cases. In the course of the casework, the students visit their clients in
prison or jail, perform legal research, gather case-related documents, e.g.,
from trial attorneys' files or public sources (through trips to courts and
other agencies or by means of subpoenas or public record act requests),
interview lay and expert witnesses, and, in some cases, jurors. In addition to working on their cases, the
students may, under the general supervision of Professor Shatz, undertake a
larger legal or empirical research project aimed at developing a systemic
challenge to the particular state's death penalty law or practice.
work is challenging, both legally and emotionally. A few of the students have
had the satisfaction of seeing their work bear fruit. In 2002, in Mississippi,
Amy Flynn developed the mitigation evidence that caused a jury to reject the
death penalty for a client, and David Brody wrote the brief that caused the
Mississippi Supreme Court to set aside the client's default and permit the
client to litigate his claims. In 2003, in Texas, Alma Lagarda and Laurel
Gorman developed the evidence of mental retardation that resulted in
evidentiary hearings being granted for three of the clients. In 2004, in
Arkansas, Jason Horst and Stephanie Smith had the satisfaction of seeing one of
the clients released from death row on a mental retardation claim. Most of the
time, however, the students contribute small pieces to very large cases, so
they will never know how their work contributed to the ultimate outcome.
Occasionally, the students experience failure. In 2003, in Arkansas, Megan
Rosichan and Robert Tadlock worked around the clock for a month to prevent an execution
and were unsuccessful. In 2004, in
Texas, Amy Goldman spent a substantial portion of her time preparing a clemency
petition for the client, including a clemency video, but the petition was
denied, and he was executed. In 2011, in Texas, David Rubin and Jonathan King
spent the summer working on an eleventh hour successor state habeas petition (a
petition filed after the denial of a previous petition), only to see the
petition denied and the client executed. Whatever the outcome for particular
clients, however, the students all finish the summer having learned about the
death penalty, about the practice of law and about themselves. They also know
that the tasks they did would not have been accomplished but for their efforts
and that they made a contribution to the struggle against the death penalty.
Process - Summer, 2013
program will send 6-10 U.S.F. and Berkeley Law students to work for defense
attorneys in the South. After the four
training sessions in March and April, the program will run May 28 – August
2. Each student will receive a stipend
of $4,000 from his or her school to cover travel expenses to the South and
living expenses while there. The program
will provide each pair of students with a rental car for the summer.
for the program will be accepted beginning November 15. Any student who has completed at least one
year of law school is eligible to apply.
A student wishing to apply should submit the following by e-mail to
Professor Shatz (firstname.lastname@example.org): (1) a cover letter describing his or her
interest in participating in the program; (2) a current resume; and (3) a law
school grade report, if the student has completed at least one semester of law
school. Interviews will be held in
December and January, and participants will be selected on a rolling basis
until all positions are filled.
For further information on the program, please see Death Penalty Internships In The American South.