Pro-Bono Death Penalty Work

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has affirmed a capital murder conviction and the jury’s death sentence, and will take up proportionality review next year. If that appeal is unsuccessful, there will be a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. That task creates a volunteer opportunity for 2-3 students. The students will work directly and closely with appellate counsel, who is based in Concord, N.H., but the students should not have to travel. They will put themselves in the position of a Supreme Court clerk reviewing a cert petition in this case, and in the position of an advocate trying to convince the Court to accept the case. The students will find and review cert petitions in capital cases as well as in cases raising similar legal issues to try to gain insight into why the Court granted or denied cert, and therefore, how to persuade the Court to favorably review the petition. In addition, the students will assist counsel in researching and evaluating the federal issues raised by the appeal and selecting the issues most appropriate for cert. Finally, if time permits, the students will assist counsel in drafting the petition. Putting drafting aside, and excluding the time it will take to review the pertinent parts of the appellate briefs and opinion, the screening, research and evaluation functions would likely involve 40-50 hours of work. Several Harvard Law students have provided assistance in this case by assisting counsel in compiling comparison cases for proportionality review. Interested students should send a short paragraph of interest to Professor Carol Steiker ( steiker at with the subject line “Preparation of Petition for a Writ of Cert in NH” by February 14. It is likely that multiple students will be selected for this opportunity

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