State of GRACE

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Gulf Region Advocacy Center (713) 869-4722 2307 Union St., Houston, TX 77007 

HCCLA Honors GRACE

 

 

This year GRACE has been honored twice by the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. We were given the Torch of Liberty Award at the HCCLA Annual Banquet. Several staff members attended to receive the award. The inscription on the award reads "In Grateful Recognition of Your Efforts in the Pursuit of Justice."

 

The board of the HCCLA also voted to donate a
one-time grant to GRACE. Patrick McCann, the president of HCCLA, presented Danalynn with the check at our office Christmas party.  We are very grateful for the support of so many of our colleagues and friends. 

 

 

Help Wanted

 

Volunteers Needed

The walls need painting, the yard needs trimming, and papers need filing.  There's lots to do at our office, and we need your help.  If you don't mind doing some manual labor or administrative work for a good cause, we'd love to have you come by and help us out.  We especially need people with wood working skills and computer skills. 

 

Donations Appreciated

As always, we need your financial support. A large portion of the work we do is completely pro-bono, and much of the work we do for the courts is not paid in full.GRACE is in need of new computers and computer equipment, funds to cover case expenses and help us support our clients, and volunteers who are willing to file, clean, paint, or help in any way.  Please support these projects with whatever donation you can provide. 

 

 

 

Danalynn Recer Receives National Award

Danalynn was recently awarded the National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Life in the Balance Achievement Award. This award is given yearly by the NLADA to an attorney or investigator who has shown exceptional dedication to death penalty defense. The Award reads: "In recognition of her tireless commitment to ending the death penalty in America , fearlessly laboring both as an attorney and to teach investigators, mitigation specialists, and lawyers the value of thorough mitigation investigation and defense teamwork.  Danalynn has embodied effective advocacy with respect for every client and their unique circumstances, first as a staff attorney at the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center in New Orleans and then by having the vision and courage to create the non-profit Gulf Region Advocacy Center out of her home in Houston.  Danalynn has been described by her colleagues as 'a force of nature' who has raised the quality of capital defense representation and provided a model for cooperative team defense that has saved countless lives."

Fall From Grace

Our annual Fall From Grace Award goes to Judge Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, for refusing to keep the court open for an extra twenty minutes so that Michael Richard's attorneys could file a last minute appeal that almost certainly would have granted him a stay of execution.    

 

The Supreme Court decided to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection just 10 hours before Michael Richard's execution was scheduled.  Richard's attorneys had to work quickly to prepare a motion for a stay.  They called the court that afternoon to request that the court stay open for an extra twenty minutes so that they could file a late appeal due to computer problems.  Judge Keller refused, violating a then-unwritten policy that communication on capital cases go first to the assigned Judge, and Michael Richard was executed.  This gross disregard for due process and simple fairness earned Judge Keller an ethics complaint, a civil law suit by the family of Michael Richard and our 2007 Fall From Grace Award.  

 

 

GRACE Board Members

  

In the past year our board members have also made a major impact in criminal litigation nationwide. 

 

On September 27, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of Carlton Turner in light of their recent cert grant to consider whether lethal injection violates the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment in the case of Baze vs. Reas.  But, the stay seems to herald a national moratorium pending resolution of this issue.  Thanks to the overnight heroics of our own Secretary of the Board, Morris Moon. 

 

This year Clive Stafford Smith's latest book, The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Fighting the Lawless World of Guantanamo Bay, was published.  The New York Times calls it "a bracing opening statement from the defense team at Guantánamo, years overdue." In it Mr. Stafford Smith outlines the various forms of abuse experienced by the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and details the legal limbo in which they live.  Mr. Stafford Smith has been trying to achieve due process for detainees at Guantanamo Bay for the past three years, in addition to his work as a capital defense attorney and legal director of Reprieve, UK.   

The Supreme Court of the United States recently granted cert for two of Joe Margulies cases, Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar.  Both of these cases involve US citizens held by the United States in Iraq.  Despite their US citizenship, the government is arguing that Munaf and Omar do not have the right to file habeas corpus petitions.  Mr. Margulies will be presenting an oral argument before the Supreme Court next year. 

 

Like Mr. Stafford Smith, Mr. Margulies has been fighting for the rights of detainees for several years now, as is evident in his book, Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power, which has also garnered praise from the Economist and American Bar Association and the New York Times, and won the Silver Gavel Award.  As the Times points out, "Thanks largely to the work of pro bono lawyers like him, Guantánamo has taken some meaningful strides toward legal accountability."

 

Phyllis Mann has moved to Dallas and become the course director of Life in the Balance.  Life in the Balance is a national training program that brings together attorneys, mitigation specialists, and investigators to develop skills necessary to perform death penalty defense, brainstorm about their capital cases, and meet other capital defenders from around the country. 

 

Robert McGlasson has been working as lead counsel on Brian Nichols case, the Atlanta courthouse shooting case. He worked for many months without any reimbursement from the court. 

 

New Staff

Neil Hartley joined GRACE in 2006 as a mitigation specialist.  Neil has 24 years experience as an investigator and mitigation specialist, including 18 years of mitigation and factual investigation for capital cases.  We are very glad to have a mitigation specialist with Neil's experience on our staff. 

Shantel Rodriguez joined GRACE this year as a mitigation specialist. She received her undergraduate education in cultural anthropology from University of Michigan Ann Arbor .  She has worked in various capacities as an advocate for the homeless and mentally ill. This sparked interest in law school and she received a JD from the City University of New York. She was drawn to mitigation investigation due to its end goal of humanizing capital defendants through story telling and legal advocacy.   

Kirsty Davis is an English intern. Kirsty graduated from the University of Warwick with an LL.B.(Hons) in 2003, and then completed an LL.M. in Criminology and Criminal Justice at London School of Economics. She then attended BPP Law School where she qualified as a barrister and plans to return home and pursue a career as a criminal barrister. 

  

 

A few members of the GRACE Staff.  Top Row: Bethany Brown, Shantel Rodriguez, Gilly Ross.  Middle Row: Jeremiah Sierra, Kirsty Davis. Bottom Row: Sarah Smith, Anne Di Salvo, Thom Samuels, Matt Silverman

 

Anne Di Salvo joined GRACE this year through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  A native of Boston , Anne graduated from Boston College with a degree in Philosophy and English.  Anne plans to remain at GRACE until August 2008 and hopes to attend law school in the future.

Sarah Smith is interning at GRACE for six months. She studied Law and Spanish (LL.B Joint Hons) at the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 2006. She then worked with the Circles Advocacy Project at the Royal Edinburgh psychiatric hospital in Edinburgh before starting her internship at GRACE in October 2007. She plans on completing her Diploma in Legal Practice upon returning to Scotland and qualifying as a solicitor.

 

 

 

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