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.
North Carolina juries rejected the death penalty in 2017, refusing to impose death sentences at any of the four trials where prosecutors sought them and making this year the third since 2012 with no new death sentences. Only a single person has been sent to N.C. death row in the past three and a half years, and most of the state’s district attorneys are no longer seeking the death penalty. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006 because of ongoing litigation over the state’s lethal injection procedures and racial bias in capital trials.
CDPL staff attorney Elizabeth Hambourger writes a moving essay about her client, Terry Ball, who recently died of natural causes after 24 years on death row. “Terry Ball caused a lot of pain in his life, and he also experienced more than his share. The same is certainly true of most of the thousands of men and women still on our nation’s death rows. This is who we sentence to death: the most damaged, the most abused; traumatized children who grow into adults without learning how to cope with their fear and anger. The death penalty says these lives have no value. I disagree.”
CDPL’s attorneys represented Henry McCollum for two decades, until he was exonerated in 2014 after 30 years on North Carolina’s death row. In recognition of the third anniversary of his release, we have published the gripping story of McCollum’s wrongful arrest, conviction, and DNA exoneration. This fascinating and disturbing case helps us understand how the death penalty threatens innocent people, and how difficult it is to free them. This story should be remembered. Please read and help us share it.
Learn more about the death penalty. For a fuller listing, go to our Links page:
- N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
- N.C. Advocates for Justice
- Death Penalty Information Center
See Our Impact
CDPL’s staff has halted wrongful executions, helped free innocent people from death row, and exposed systemic injustices. Learn more about the work that has made CDPL a leader in addressing unfairness in capital punishment.