The Center for Death Penalty Litigation is a non-profit law firm that provides direct representation to inmates on North Carolina’s death row, as well as consulting with and training attorneys who practice capital litigation across the state. CDPL’s commitment to representing indigent and disadvantaged defendants just as vigorously as corporate lawyers defend their highest-paying clients has saved the lives of many who faced execution. In addition to representing individual clients, CDPL spearheads litigation that addresses systemic injustices and educates the public about the death penalty. CDPL has been a leading force in dramatically reducing the number of executions in North Carolina, and has cast light on the arbitrariness and unfairness of our state’s capital punishment system.

In wake of McCollum exoneration, CDPL releases groundbreaking new report

On Trial for their Lives: The Hidden Costs of Wrongful Prosecutions, a new report from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, finds that the death penalty in North Carolina is being used broadly and indiscriminately, with little regard for the strength of the evidence against defendants — and putting innocent people at risk of being sentenced to die. It is the first study in the United States of cases in which people were charged or prosecuted capitally but never convicted. Its findings shed new light on how innocent people get caught up in the death penalty system. Learn more and read the full report here.

CDPL to host Osborn and Stein Awards reception in September

Join us! Buy tickets here.

CDPL is proud to announce that longtime capital defender Bob Hurley is the recipient of this year’s J. Kirk Osborn Award, for outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients facing the death penalty. This year, CDPL will also present the Adam Stein Award for appellate advocacy and work to raise the standard of practice in capital cases. N.C. Appellate Defender Staples Hughes is the recipient of that award. We will celebrate Bob and Staples at a reception in September. Learn more about our award winners.

CDPL client receives pardon of innocence from N.C. governor


Henry McCollum shakes hands with CDPL attorney Vernetta Alston — Photo by Jenny Warburg

CDPL client Henry McCollum has been granted a rare pardon of innocence by Gov. Pat McCrory. McCollum’s innocence is now officially recognized by the state of North Carolina, and he is eligible for up to $750,000 in compensation for the 30 years he spent on death row. McCollum was N.C.’s longest serving death row inmate when he was exonerated in September 2014. CDPL represented McCollum for 20 years, along with attorneys from the law firm of WilmerHale in Boston, and the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission conducted substantial investigation in the case. Read about this tragic case here. Henry McCollum is one of several people across the country who have been exonerated recently after decades on death row.

CDPL attorney wins national prize for defending the condemned

KenLongtime CDPL attorney Ken Rose has been awarded the National Legal Aid & Defender Association‘s 2015 Kutak-Dodds Prize for his extraordinary commitment to defending indigent clients facing the death penalty. The association says: “Kenneth Rose is honored for his life-time commitment to public defense work for nearly 35 years in Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Rose has spent his entire career representing low-income clients on death row, many of whom are mentally ill and intellectually disabled. He has played a key role in advocacy efforts to limit the death penalty, helping to enact a North Carolina statute barring the death penalty for persons with intellectual disabilities and another that allowed death row prisoners to present statistical disparities and other evidence to show that race played an impermissible role in their cases.” Rose has also helped to free several innocent men from death row, the most recent of which was Henry McCollum.