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Capital Litigation

The Capital Division of MSPD was established in 1989 to address the unique challenges that arise when the State seeks the death penalty. The purpose of this division is to provide the highest-quality representation to individuals against whom the State of Missouri is seeking the death penalty in the State Trial Court, the State Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Attorneys in this division engage in a daily struggle to save the lives and protect the constitutional rights of their clients.

Read about the experiences of our Capital Division attorneys, as reported in The Southeast Missourian.

The division employs experienced attorneys who excel as litigators to handle the initial trial of the case. The division also employs experienced attorneys with exceptional appellate advocacy skills to handle the direct appeal of cases following a trial and sentence of death. There are three Capital Division district offices within the state, located in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia. Trial attorneys in the division have the opportunity to try cases in both the urban and rural areas of Missouri. MSPD capital litigators have attained national recognition as leaders and teachers in death-penalty defense.

Trial lawyers enter this division as Associate Counsel and, after training, experience and review, may be promoted to Lead Counsel. Appellate lawyers handling cases in this division begin at the Lead Counsel level.

At the trial court level, attorneys who specialize in handling capital cases work in teams of two. Defense teams also include in-house mitigation specialists, investigators, and support staff. Appellate attorneys have the opportunity to provide litigation support to the trial teams and to practice before both the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Both trial and appellate attorneys in this division litigate fully and aggressively the most serious cases in the criminal justice system.

Training for lawyers in the Capital Division is a high priority, accomplished through mentoring and training programs created by the Training Division. Experts in all areas of death penalty defense throughout the country are brought in to provide training, and lawyers in the division attend national training programs. These programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Byron Schechmeister Death Penalty College at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California
  • National Legal Aid and Defender Association's annual Life in the Balance capital defense program
  • California Association of Criminal Justice's annual Capital Defense program in Monterey, California
  • Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy's Death Penalty Practice and Persuasion Institute
  • In-house MSPD Capital Conference every other year

MSPD capital attorneys are regularly invited to teach at NLADA's Life in the Balance, the Santa Clara Death Penalty College, and the Kentucky Death Penalty program, as well as at numerous training programs around the country.