June 25, 2013

Jenner & Block Partner David W. DeBruin will receive the 2013 Frederick Douglass Equal Justice Award from the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR). 

The nonprofit SCHR provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, works to improve legal representation for individuals accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire counsel and advocates for criminal justice system reforms in the Southern United States. 

In announcing the award, SCHR noted that Dave’s recognition was “in honor of his heroic leadership and unshakable commitment to pro bono capital defense work on behalf of many who have faced and are facing the death penalty."  The award will be presented at the SCHR 17th Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on October 24. 

Dave has had a relationship with SCHR for many years.  He has led several teams of Jenner & Block attorneys in the pro bono representation of clients in some of the most difficult capital cases in the Southern states.

In 2012, Dave achieved remarkable results for two clients in death penalty cases referred to him by SCHR. 

In one, following the 2010 reversal of the client’s death sentence by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the announcement by the Alabama attorney general that he would seek to reinstate the death sentence, Dave joined SCHR and ACLU Capital Defense Project attorneys, acting as lead counsel in the new death penalty hearing.  Last October, the attorney general agreed to withdraw his demand for the death sentence.

In the second case, Dave led a firm team that, last November, won a new sentencing hearing for a man sentenced to death in Georgia for three murders.  The state’s Supreme Court determined that the trial judge’s refusal to allow defense counsel to voir dire prospective jurors regarding the fact that two of the victims were young children deprived the defendant of his right to a fair and impartial jury.  This not only protected his rights, but also spotlighted the importance of voir dire in capital cases and made important law in Georgia.