Capital Defense Clinic

For Law Students

Students assist counsel representing individuals who are awaiting trial on capital murder charges where the state is seeking the death penalty. In the course of representing clients, students develop knowledge and skills relating to substantive and procedural criminal law, client counseling, case strategy, fact investigation, mitigation investigation, and motion and brief drafting.

LAW 665-005

Talitha Powers Bailey

Open to 2nd and 3rd year students.

Credit hours/duration
This is a full-year clinic and is offered for 4 total credits (2 credits for the fall semester & 2 for the spring).

Weekly classes
Seminar: 1-2 Hours TBA

The Capital Defense Law Clinic was created in 2003 to provide legal assistance in the representation of defendants facing the death penalty in the state of Alabama. Unlike the other law clinics at the LawSchool, the Capital Defense Clinic and its students do not serve as attorney of record in their cases but instead assist counsels of record in their representation of persons facing capital murder charges.

The Clinic’s first goal is to train law students, through work with experienced criminal defense and capital litigation attorneys, to be effective, highly-professional lawyers. In particular, the Clinic provides students with unique opportunities to participate in capital litigation at the pre-trial, trial, and sentencing phases. The Clinic’s second goal is one of public service – to help improve the quality of legal representation afforded to capital defendants in the state of Alabama at all procedural stages.

Highlights of Capital Defense Clinic Activities

The Capital Defense Clinic has provided legal assistance to a number of persons either facing capital murder charges or already convicted and serving time on Alabama’s death row.  In the past, clinic students have worked on federal habeas corpus petitions that challenge the conviction, conducted research for a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, conducted juror interviews for post-conviction legal petitions, as well as other projects.  Currently, clinic students work in all stages of pre-trial, trial and sentencing of capital cases.  Students meet regularly with the defendants they are assisting; conduct both fact and mitigation investigations; draft motions and briefs; and develop trial theories and strategies.

Who Does the Capital Defense Clinic Represent?

The Capital Defense Clinic does not serve as attorney of record for any defendant charged with capital murder. Instead, direct representation is provided through the counsel of record, often appointed by the trial court. The Clinic assists that counsel of record in providing legal services to the defendant.

What Type of Work Will I Do in the Capital Defense Clinic?

Students in this clinic provide assistance to counsel of record on capital murder cases at all stages of litigation: pre-trial, trial, and sentencing. Included in the activities that students participate in are fact investigation, such as witness interviewing; client interviews and jail/prison visits; mitigation preparation; document and records gathering and review; motion and brief research and drafting; and preparation for hearings and trials. Students work alongside local attorneys, mitigation specialists and experienced field investigators. Students often work in pairs or in small teams on discrete projects within the cases and are exposed to a wide range of experiences at all levels of capital litigation in the state of Alabama.

What are the Capital Defense Clinic Credits and Workload?

The Clinic is open to both 2nd and 3rd year law students and is limited to 10 students. The course is a full-year clinic and awards 4 academic credits total (i.e., 2 credits for the fall coursework and 2 credits for the spring coursework). Students are expected to work an average of 7 hours per week in this clinic. The course includes both the casework and a weekly classroom or seminar component that, depending on the schedule for a given week, meets for 1-2 hours. In the seminar, students learn the substantive and procedural laws related to capital litigation, the strategies involved in capital defense litigation, and the practice skills and professional responsibility issues relevant to their cases. Later in the year, especially second semester, the classroom component frequently involves “case round” activities, where students share information about what they are working on at the particular time and discuss and strategize about important legal and factual issues with their classmates.

About Talitha Powers Bailey
Ms. Bailey has directed the Capital Defense Law Clinic since 2007. Ms. Bailey graduated cum laude from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1999. After graduation, she practiced law in Birmingham for eight years. Her areas of emphasis were criminal defense and appeals, with a special focus on capital litigation. For more information on the Clinic, contact Ms. Bailey at (205) 348-6845 or