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.
Former CDPL client David Gainey recently pled guilty to second-degree murder, 18 years after he was sentenced to death based on flimsy evidence and a coerced confession. He will serve 26 years for his involvement in the crime. It was a long overdue resolution in a case that underscores the waste and sloppiness of our capital punishment system. It took nearly two decades, the work of dozens of lawyers, and untold thousands of dollars to expose the injustice of Gainey’s death sentence and reach a fair conclusion.
The death penalty was once the default punishment for first-degree murder in North Carolina, but times have clearly changed. In a new video from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a retired police chief and a former N.C. prison warden who participated in 14 executions both say they believe the death penalty does nothing to keep our society safe. Public safety officials, prosecutors, and judges used to be among the death penalty’s staunchest supporters. Now, some are beginning to speak up about the punishment’s unfairness, inefficiency, and failure to improve public safety.
CDPL attorneys Elizabeth Hambourger and Vernetta Alston were part of the team that won a life sentence for Nathan Holden in Wake County on March 3. The jury rejected both the state’s claim that the murder was premeditated and that the death penalty was warranted. It was the seventh capital trial in a row in which a Wake County jury chose life without parole over a death sentence. Here you can watch Elizabeth Hambourger give her moving closing argument, in which she asked the jury to save her client’s life.
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.