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.

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.

CDPL client declared innocent, released from death row


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

CDPL client Henry McCollum, N.C.’s longest serving death row inmate, was exonerated in late 2014. Henry and his brother, Leon Brown, were declared innocent of the rape and murder for which they were sentenced to death 30 years ago. CDPL represented Henry for the past 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 spending decades on death row.