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My experience of Amicus’ spring training weekend: part two

My experience of Amicus’ spring training weekend: part two

Anisa Rahman Choudhury


Reading time: three minutes

This blog covers the second weekend of Amicus' spring training 2024. Check out this blog to find out more about the first weekend.

The second Saturday began with an in-depth explanation and advice on mitigation in the US criminal justice system. This is particularly important for death penalty litigation, as this is the best way for defendants to have their sentences changed. Therefore, we were told the best practices lawyers use in constructing their narrative, how they confront their own biases and ensure that their points are conveyed well. This was highly beneficial as we heard the personal stories of many people who have been on death row, how their circumstances affected the position they were in and deconstructed perception from a privileged standpoint.

After lunch, there was a fascinating talk on investigation and litigation of ineffective assistance of counsel in capital cases. This is one of the main problems of capital punishment, demonstrated through shocking cases where defence counsel have appeared for their clients clueless, drunk and have even fallen asleep during the trial. We then investigated mental health and trauma issues in capital cases, a real issue that’s rarely addressed during trial. 

After a short break, there was a talk by professor Leslie Thomas KC on race and slavery. This was particularly insightful and easily the highlight of the day. Professor Thomas provided background information on the history of the death penalty and what it is today, linking it to challenges in the UK and current day affairs. His inspirational talk reminded us of our individual responsibility to combat racism, self-educate and get involved in pro-bono opportunities like death penalty litigation. The day concluded with a session on jury selection and how this manifests in practice. 

The next day began with an insight into prosecutorial misconduct claims in capital cases; it was very interesting to see how the US differs to the UK and the importance of fair trial, particularly where there are such high stakes. After a ten-minute break, there was a section on investigating and interviewing skills, which is highly exciting work. The lawyers said this is one of their favourite parts. After lunch, we looked into record review and client management, which may sound less interesting than its predecessor, but this was also very informative. It’s equally important to have correct administration and can often help find evidence that might have been missed at first. We then heard from Doug Passon, broadcasted live from the US, who gave a rousing talk on the ‘power of a story’ for capital cases. Here, he explained the best techniques lawyers can use, the implications of successful advocacy and the benefits of pursuing a career in this area.

We then broke up into small groups and completed another investigation workshop. This was my favourite part of the day, working closely with like-minded peers to implement the learning from both training weekends. Each group was assigned to an Amicus alumni that guided us, answered any questions we had and offered personal tips about undertaking Amicus placements. The supervisors rotated so we were able to hear from a breadth of people and experiences. 

Overall, I highly recommend attending an Amicus training weekend. All of the speakers, staff and alumni were highly engaging and experienced in human rights, so I gained a lot of helpful information. It was also a great opportunity to network and I fostered some close friendships, which  still remain today. These training weekends might spur your interest in a particular field of law or lead you to other volunteering opportunities with Amicus. I hope this blog was helpful to give you an insight into Amicus and you can check out their website for more information