Back to blog

LCN Blogs

Amicus ALJ and the death penalty

Amicus ALJ and the death penalty

Paris Bradley

18/10/2018

This summer I had the opportunity to undertake an internship with Amicus ALJ, supporting them with their work to provide representation for those facing the death penalty in the United States – the experience was life-changing. 

Most of us are familiar with the issues surrounding the use of the death penalty, including the use (or lack of use) of lethal injection, the socioeconomic status and race of death row inmates, and the politics surrounding judges and prosecutors. Being involved with Amicus allows you to help people affected by the death penalty and learn many new skills to use in your legal studies and career.

I want to tell you all how you can become involved.

Who is Amicus ALJ?

Amicus ALJ was founded in 1992 by Jane Officer, in memory of her pen pal and friend, Andrew Lee Jones. Andrew was executed in the state of Louisiana in 1991. His case was poorly handled and among many significant errors, there was a lack of scientific evidence linking him to the crime. Good legal representation could have saved his life.

Amicus aims to provide better access to justice and raise awareness of potential abuses of defendants’ rights. They believe the death penalty is disproportionately imposed on the most vulnerable in society, violating their right to due process and equal justice before the law.

Financially, Amicus relies solely on volunteers, donations and fundraising. Therefore, even the smallest of support is greatly appreciated and put to good use.

Student groups

Student groups are at the core of Amicus and its frontline work. They provide a platform for students to become involved with Amicus. The point of contact between a student group and Amicus is a student representative. These reps have four targets:

  • Target 1: Grow the community – encourage students, professionals and friends to become Amicus members. The support of members is vital in order for Amicus to continue their fight for justice on death row.
  • Target 2: Spread awareness – raise awareness of death penalty issues and encourage your community to come to Amicus training.
  • Target 3: Fund the fight and Target 4: Hold events – raise money through fundraising initiatives. Think of creative ways to fundraise, and increase awareness and participation, whilst having fun. Amicus is not supported by the government, they rely on student fundraising.

Amicus recruits student representatives every year! Some universities are still inviting applications for the 2018/19 cohort of Amicus representatives (www.amicus-alj.org/how-help/student-groups).

Student reps have the opportunity to host information sessions by Amicus staff members, former Amicus interns, exonerees and lawyers associated with the charity. At the US Death Penalty Training, students will hear from experts in capital defence law and gain an invaluable insight.

I am the student rep for the University of Winchester 2018/19 and am happy to answer any questions!

Memberships

Both student and regular memberships are a vital source of funding for Amicus. Student memberships are only £18 per year (that’s the equivalent of £1.50 a month). 

Members receive the following benefits:

  • priority booking and reduced rates for Amicus events and training; 
  • a subscription to Amicus’ monthly e-newsletter (with the opportunity to contribute);
  • notifications and updates about Amicus activities and work in the United States and the United Kingdom;
  • access to Middle Temple Library’s ‘Capital Punishment Collection’; and
  • a subscription to the Amicus journal (e-copies).

Training

Amicus delivers bi-annual training in US capital defence law and procedure, legal research, evidence and professional conduct. 

The training is available to anyone interested in human rights and/or the use of capital punishment in the United States, including individuals who want to be future interns and are currently not affiliated with Amicus. The training is compulsory for any Amicus intern intending to go to the United States, equipping them with tools to be of maximum use to an office immediately on arrival.

Autumn Training 2018

Introductory evening: Friday 19 October

Weekend 1: 20-21 October

Weekend 2: 3-4 November

Location: Baker McKenzie (Friday only) and Pinsent Masons

Internships

Internships are a fantastic way to support Amicus and provide an excellent learning opportunity: 

  • UK internships are based in their London office and vacancies open about four times a year. 
  • US general internships are placed in capital defence offices for a minimum of three months (no deadlines for these internships because the need is year-round).
  • Shorter US internships are usually project specific and therefore have specific deadlines (eg, the Maryland Research Project and Missouri Project). They require a commitment of less than three months and are sometimes open to undergraduates.

Matrix Amicus Bursary

In conjunction with Matrix Chambers, Amicus is offering three individuals the opportunity to complete a partially funded US internship in Louisiana. The Matrix Causes Fund will support applicants for Amicus' US Internship Programme with a £500 bursary.

The three bursary recipients will spend between three and four months in one of Amicus' affiliate capital defence offices in New Orleans.

Deadline: Sunday 28 October 2018 at 23:59 pm.

Some final words…

I cannot speak highly enough of Amicus and its fight against the death penalty. Everyone involved with the charity go above and beyond the call of duty and work tirelessly in their campaigns. 

During my internship, I felt honoured to be part of the frontline work and doing something which speaks to the core of my rationale for becoming a lawyer – helping those most in need and making a difference.

If you sign up to any of the above, please reference Paris Bradley as having directed you to Amicus. 

With so much more to say but so little space to write, please find further information at www.amicus-alj.org.