Jenner & Block

May 1, 2014 On Law Day: Celebrating Firm's Efforts to Ensure Defendants Have Effective Counsel

Today is Law Day, celebrating the rule of law and its significance to society. In recognition of the day, we highlight Don Verrilli's successful argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Wiggins v. Smith in March 2003. Pro bono client Kevin Wiggins had been found guilty of capital murder after a bench trial in 1989; a jury sentenced him to death. But the two public defenders did not thoroughly investigate Mr. Wiggins’ background and, therefore, Don argued, failed to tell the jury of “powerful mitigating evidence” that could have spared him that fate. In its June 2003 ruling, the Court held that the performance of Mr. Wiggins’ attorneys at sentencing violated his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel. The case reaffirmed the importance of the right to counsel in capital cases and helped to establish meaningful standards for defense counsel’s performance.  Mr. Wiggins was resentenced to life in prison and ultimately sent to a state facility for mental health treatment and rehabilitation.

CATEGORIES: D Verrilli, Death Penalty, Supreme Court, Video, Wiggins v Smith

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