A fascination with the US and its use of the death penalty is one that consumes many people. Amicus is a small, UK-based charity that helps to provide legal representation to those facing the death penalty in the United States. Amicus believes the death penalty is disproportionately imposed on the most vulnerable in society, violating their right to due process. Its aims are to provide better access to justice and to raise awareness of potential abuses of defendants' rights.
The charity was founded in 1992, in memory of Andrew Lee Jones. During his day-long trial, details of Andrew's mental illness were withheld, vital mitigation was not presented, and he was represented by a very inexperienced lawyer. Andrew, a young black man, was convicted by an all-white jury and executed in Lousiana in 1991. Unfortunately, similar injustices are still rife within the US criminal defence system today.
The strong reaction to the case of Steven Avery, as portrayed on the hit Netflix show Making a Murderer, and the popularity of the podcast Serial clearly display the huge public outrage to miscarriages of justice. But away from the media's eye, similarly unjust cases are unravelling every day.
So what do Amicus do to fight for justice? As well as coordinating capital casework with law firms in the UK and running awareness-raising events, the charity trains and places interns in a variety of US states to assist attorneys in overworked and underfunded capital defence offices. The work that the interns do is vital to ensuring fair trials for those accused of capital crimes. And what if an inmate is guilty? Amicus believes that everyone should have access to equal justice before the law, regardless of their guilt or innocence.
Are you interested in the work Amicus that does? Could you make a difference? With internships, training and student groups, there are plenty of ways for you to support the fight for justice on death row!
Visit the website to find out more: www.amicus-alj.org.
By Alexandra Wilson