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Stephen Bright and David Menschel to Speak on "Crime, Punishment, and Death," Sept. 30


Stephen B. Bright, visiting lecturer in law at YLS and director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and David Menschel '02, an Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellow, will give a talk titled "Crime, Punishment, and Death," examining the state of the death penalty in the twenty-first century, in Room 127, Monday, September 30, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. The talk is part of the Liman Public Interest Reading Group and is co-sponsored by the Capital Assistance Project. It is free and open to the public.


While "innocence" isn't one of the words in the title of Monday's talk at YLS, "Crime, Punishment, and Death," it will be the focus through which two speakers evaluate the death penalty as it is administered in America today.

Innocence claims have become increasingly prominent in the national death penalty debate. Hundreds of wrongly convicted prisoners have been exonerated through DNA evidence in the last decade, providing dramatic proof of the fallibility of the criminal justice system. David Menschel, a 2002 graduate of YLS, is working with the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, through the auspices of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship and Fund. The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic that focuses on cases in which biological evidence could prove a prisoner's claim of innocence, and Menschel is working to improve the systemic means to bring such claims.

Stephen B. Bright, visiting lecturer in law at YLS, has been the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights for twenty years, and in that time has been a tireless advocate for prisoners' rights. He has argued death penalty cases at trial, on appeal, and in front of the Supreme Court. He has testified in front of Congress and worked to improve the access to lawyers for poor people accused of crimes. He will bring the weight of this experience to the question of what limitations a focus on innocence has in death penalty litigation and advocacy.

The talk is part of the Liman Public Interest Reading Group, which meets regularly throughout the term. This session was opened to the public because of widespread interest in the topic. The Capital Assistance Project, a student organization at YLS, is co-sponsoring the event. Through the Capital Assistance Project, YLS students work with advocacy organizations, such as SCHR and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, to provide research support to litigators working on capital cases. Students work in teams, pairing more experienced partners with those less experienced, under the supervision of practicing attorneys. In the last year, the project has completed numerous research intensive projects, such as writing sample motions for the Texas Defender Service and composing portions of appellate briefs.