The Death Penalty Project was initiated in the fall of 2014. It provides students clinical opportunities to assist in the direct representation of individuals sentenced to death and research opportunities to contribute to a comprehensive study of the Missouri death penalty statute’s operation since enactment in 1978.
In its 2014 Term, the United States Supreme Court granted the petition for certiorari of Mark Christeson, the clinic’s first client, reversing the lower courts in a case strengthening the federal statutory right to counsel for individuals sentenced to death by state courts. Christeson v. Roper, 574 U.S. __ (2015). By researching and drafting pleadings, interviewing witnesses and preparing affidavits, clinic students were instrumental in the Christeson litigation as his case proceeded into the Supreme Court little over a day before Missouri was scheduled to execute him in October 2014. As a result of the clinic’s execution warrant litigation, Christeson obtained a last minute stay that permitted the Court ultimately to decide the case on its merits.