for New Trial Project
Following a 2006 study
that showed that the average motion for new trial in indigent
capital cases in Louisiana was 2 pages long, the Motion for New
Trial (MNT) Project was devised.
The project seeks to
increase the resources and support available to defendants in
cases resulting in a death verdict. Relying primarily on
volunteers, the LCAC monitors and observes all capital trial
cases in Louisiana and when a death verdict is returned, LCAC
staff work with trial counsel to develop post-trial motions and
litigate issues prior to and at sentencing.
In March 2010, through the
MNT Project, the LCAC presented evidence of prosecutorial
misconduct in an Orleans Parish case, resulting in the reversal
of the conviction before the death sentence returned by the jury
was formally imposed.
Blackstrikes Project focuses on the racially discriminatory use
of race peremptory strikes by prosecutors in Louisiana to remove
prospective African American jurors from service.
we commenced a study in Jefferson Parish, a suburban community
of New Orleans that has expended to review all trials in the
Parish from 1997 onwards. The study established that Jefferson
Parish prosecutors were three times more likely to strike, an
African-American than a white person.
now actively involved in gathering data to expand the study to
has received funding to support an OSI fellow from Yale law
School, from September 2010, to expand the original premise of
Blackstrikes. Will Collins, from Yale Law School, will be
studying the racial effects of other mechanics of jury
selection, including the formation of the original jury venire,
the use of hardship exclusions, and the effects of
Witherspooning (the exclusion from death penalty trials of those
with scruples against imposing the death penalty).
Health Justice Project
Capital defendants suffering from severe mental
illness are especially vulnerable in Louisiana's death penalty
system. From arrest and interrogation, through to the
determination of competency to stand trial, and then throughout
the trial process itself, a person's mental illness affects
every stage of their case and their risk of being sentenced to
The Mental Health Justice Project aims to arm
lawyers with the tools and training required to better serve
mentally ill capital clients and to ensure that mentally ill
defendants who are facing the death penalty are properly
represented and assessed at competency hearings. Under the
guise of the mental health justice project, the LCAC is in the
process of authoring a manual for defense attorneys regarding
competency to stand trial determinations, and compiling a
database of mental health professionals available to assist in
Staffed largely through intern and volunteer
assistance, this critically underfunded project focuses on
providing humanitarian support for capital defendants and their
families. A major focus of the project is providing
transportation to penal institutions for indigent families and
one of the early successes of the program was partnering with
Cornerstone Builders to establish a regular bus from Orleans
Parish to Louisiana State Penitentiary for this purpose.
The Project also provides support by arranging
for educational materials for prisoners, tracking and resolving
problematic conditions of confinement and improving prison
conditions through projects such as the solicitation of book
donations to the prison libraries and the provision of legal
texts for indigent inmates. The client welfare officer also
supports a pen pal program, briefing potential pen pals and
connecting them with prisoners.
Atkins v. Virginia
The LCAC has developed an expertise in the
litigation of claims pursuant to Atkins v. Virginia, the 2002
U.S. Supreme Court case prohibiting the execution of individuals
with mental retardation. The LCAC regularly consults on Atkins
cases, providing assistance in the areas of investigation,
expert selection and litigation.