The Center for Death Penalty Litigation started in 1989 as the North Carolina Resource Center, one of several such centers around the country that were funded by the federal government to provide quality legal representation to death-sentenced inmates. In 1995, we became an independent non-profit and changed our name to The Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Throughout its history, CDPL has maintained its commitment to providing the highest level of counsel to inmates on North Carolina’s death row.
CDPL has grown to become a leading resource on capital litigation in North Carolina. Our attorneys represent about a third of the inmates on the state’s death row. We use a team approach, with lawyers, mitigation investigators, paralegals and interns working together with clients to craft the best possible defense. We also provide assistance and training to many of the other attorneys and mitigation investigators working on behalf of North Carolina death row inmates. Our staff work primarily on post-conviction cases, but we also represent indigent defendants at trial.
CDPL’s work is now a model for other states that want to ensure truth and fairness in their capital punishment systems. In addition to representing individual clients, CDPL sponsors trainings that provide capital lawyers with the most current research and information. We have taken a lead role in litigation that addresses systemic problems, such as racial bias in capital trials, the execution of defendants with intellectual disabilities, and problems with the state’s lethal injection procedure. We also devote significant resources to educating the public about the death penalty system and its flaws, including the nine innocent people who have been released from North Carolina’s death row – many with CDPL’s help.