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Contact :
(713)869-4722
FAX (713)880-3811
2307 Union St.
Houston, Texas 77007
email:staff@gracelaw.org

 

Direct Representation:

GRACE staff provide pro-bono legal representation to a small number of indigent capital defendants, particularly those facing retrial or resentencing after successful challenges to their convictions and/or death sentences.  To date, we have successfully represented 14 capital pretrial defendants in Texas and currently represent three others.  This work is funded exclusively by grants and individual donations.

Mitigation Services:

GRACE provides mitigation specialists for indigent defendants represented by our own lawyers or by outside appointed counsel.  These specialists perform a critical defense function by conducting extensive, multi-generational, multi-disciplinary investigations into the life history of the defendant whose life is at stake.  We then present these "mitigating circumstances" -- or reasons to choose life -- to state or federal prosecutors in an effort to persuade them not to seek the death penalty.  This work by GRACE mitigation specialists has resulted in life-saving resolutions for nearly 50 defendants, a resolution that also spares the victim's family from the re-traumatization of sitting through the evidence at trial and provides them with the finality of a life verdict rather than embarking on the long and uncertain road of capital appeals and post-conviction.  Where a resolution is not reached, this life history evidence is presented at the sentencing phase of the trial to give jurors a full picture of the whole person whose life they are being asked to take and provide them with reasons to choose life.

This work, as set out in the 2003 ABA Guidelines for the Representation in a Capital Case and the 2008 Mitigation Supplement to those Guidelines, is hugely time-consuming and difficult, involving the collection of thousands of pages of documents and visits with scores of life history sources.  The Supreme Court of the United States has clearly held that every capital defendant is entitled to such a life history investigation.  GRACE staff are appointed and funded by state and federal courts in providing these services.  However, in the current economic crisis, many courts have begun to deny adequate funding, or approve the funding and then slash vouchers after the work has been done, or even simply ignore vouchers and refuse to rule on motions.  GRACE's ability to continue providing these services is gravely endangered by these developments.

Consulting:

GRACE provides consulting services to capital defense teams, helping them find experts, providing litigation samples and research, assisting in the development of a plea strategy, and helping them prepare and use mitigation evidence.  Specifically, we have established a Harris County Capital Pre-Trial Project and our Texas Retrial/Resentencing Project, both initially funded by Equal Justice Works and dependent upon individual donors thereafter.  Our consulting work also includes the development of the Texas Capital Trial Manual, or "Losch Manual," written on a pro bono basis by GRACE staff and distributed statewide by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association.

Training and Education:

GRACE staff serve as unpaid faculty members and small group leaders in dozens of capital defense seminars and workshops every year through national, state and local bar associations and public defender systems around the country.  We also host our own three-day intensive mitigation skills training at least once per year.  And, we provide one-on-one mentorship to mitigation specialists through the National Capital Punishment Project.  Our Director, Danalynn Recer, is on the faculty of the National Capital Trial Training Consortium, and participates in bringing intensive bring-your-own case trainings to capital defenders all of the country.  She is also on the faculty of the National Capital Voir Dire College, and conducts skills workshops in the Colorado Method of capital jury selection around the country.

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Director's Corner