CDPL is a non-profit law firm that represents people on death row, coordinates capital litigation across North Carolina, and serves as a clearinghouse for accurate and timely information on the N.C. death penalty. We believe that indigent defendants facing the death penalty deserve the same kind of high-quality representation available to the highest-paying clients. We also believe that ending the unjust and error-prone death penalty is a crucial part of building a more humane criminal justice system in North Carolina.
Just days after N.C. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley declared, “We must come together to firmly and loudly commit to the declaration that all people are created equal,” the N.C. Supreme Court issued momentous rulings in two Racial Justice Act cases on Friday, June 5. The court’s decision means that death sentenced men and women from across North Carolina will now get to bring forward evidence that racial bias contributed to their death sentences. If they win their cases, they will be resentenced to life without parole. The decision cannot be appealed and ensures that mountains of evidence of racism in death penalty cases will not be swept under the rug. Read our press release for all the details.
A message from CDPL Executive Director Gretchen M. Engel: When I came to North Carolina in 1992 to work against the death penalty, my first client was an African American man who’d been convicted of killing a white state trooper. In fact, if you’d looked at my client list over the years, you’d think most of the violence in this country has been carried out by poor Black people — and that most of the victims were white. However, in fighting against the death penalty, we at CDPL have necessarily steeped ourselves in the history of racial oppression in America. Because we’ve studied this history, we know that much of the violence in our country has been carried out not by the people on death row, but by white people, some of them carrying badges or sitting in the highest positions of power, seeking to maintain the social order. And most of the people murdered in this country have never gotten justice.
CDPL is doing its part to help stop the spread of Covid-19. We have temporarily closed our office in downtown Durham, and all of our attorneys, investigators, and public education specialists are now working remotely. We have also temporarily ceased in-person client meetings to ensure that none of our staff carries the virus into a prison, where people are kept in confined spaces and are extraordinarily vulnerable to illness. However, CDPL is continuing to fight vigorously for the rights of our clients. Please click to read more about how CDPL is rising to this extraordinary moment.
Learn more about the death penalty. For a fuller listing, go to our Links page:
- N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
- Carolina Justice Policy Center
- 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.