Capital Defense Lawyers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Professor Welsh S. White’s book Litigating in the Shadow of Death: Defense Attorneys in Capital Cases collects the compelling stories of “a new band of dedicated lawyers” that has “vigorously represented capital defendants, seeking to prevent their executions” (p.3). Sadly, Professor White passed away on New Year’s Eve, 2005, days before the release of his final work. To the well-deserved accolades of Professor White that were recently published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, I can only add a poignant comment in a student blog that captures his excellence as a scholar and educator: “I wanted to spend more time being taught by him. Another colleague stated, “He believed very strongly that the way [in] which the death penalty is carried out in the United States is unfair and inhumane and violates the Constitution. He stood up for what he believed and was very influential in doing that. Professor White’s book is a wonderful parting gift from a scholar and humanitarian. The book advances his cause by exposing the Achilles Heel of capital punishment: the Court’s unwillingness to guarantee adequate legal representation to every person accused of a capital crime. It may be his most influential publication on the death penalty.