May 01, 2016

The American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project has honored Jenner & Block with the 2016 Exceptional Service Award, lauding “the breadth of Jenner’s past and ongoing pro bono commitments to death penalty clients [and] influence on the development of capital punishment law.” 

The award recognizes US firms for extraordinary commitment to pro bono capital representation. This marks the second time the Project has honored Jenner & Block with the award, the first time being in 2006, the inaugural year for the award.  Only one other law firm has ever received the award twice.

The 2016 submission recounted the firm’s longstanding commitment to representing clients facing sentences of death, going back to the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Witherspoon v. Illinois in 1968. It also described the firm’s leadership in helping to effect systemic reform in the death penalty arena and highlighted several key recent representations, including:

  1. Securing the reversal of Hector Torres Garcia’s death sentence and negotiating a deal that permanently voided his death row status, an effort most recently led by Partners Matt D. Basil and Casey T. Grabenstein.
  2. Securing the removal of Kevan Brumfield from death row, an enormous effort that included a win in the United States Supreme Court (argument presented by Partner Michael B. DeSanctis) and a win on remand in the Fifth Circuit (argument presented by Associate Amir H. Ali).  The team included Partners Adam G. Unikowsky and Leah J. Tulin and Associates R. Trent McCotter and David A. Wishnick;
  3. Convincing the State of Georgia to voluntarily dismiss its case against Lawrence Lee, who had been on death row for 28 years and who was awaiting a retrial following a successful habeas petition pursued by other counsel; our work on behalf of Mr. Lee was a multi-office effort led by Partners David J. Bradford and Terri L. Mascherin, with assistance from Partners Kelly M. Morrison, Daniel J. Weiss and Associate Paul B. Rietema.

The Project is the ABA’s leading resource on issues related to the defense effort in death penalty cases.  Since its creation in 1986, its focus has been to improve the quality and availability of legal representation for people facing possible death sentences.  Firm Partners John H. Mathias, Jr. and Terri L. Mascherin are past chairs of the Project’s Steering Committee,and Partner David W. DeBruin served for many years as a committee member.

The award will be presented at the annual volunteer recognition event scheduled for September 15, 2016, in Washington, DC.