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Capital Punishment Center

Meredith Martin Rountree, Fellow

Education
Ph.D.  University of Texas at Austin
J.D.      Georgetown University Law Center
A.B.    Yale College
Contact: meredithmr@utexas.edu

Meredith Martin Rountree, J.D., Ph.D., joins the Capital Punishment Center this fall as a Fellow for 2012-2013.  She previously co-directed the Capital Punishment Clinic, and in fact, before leaving the Law School to pursue a graduate degree, she helped found the Capital Punishment Center. 

Dr. Rountree recently earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the study of crime, law and deviance.  Her dissertation research, supported in part by the American Bar Foundation, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University-San Marcos, and the Proteus Action League, examined the phenomenon of death-sentenced individuals who seek their own execution.  (Such prisoners account for about 11% of persons executed in the United States.)  She used their cases as a window onto certain criminal law and criminal justice practices in Texas, and examined the social and legal structures in which prisoners and their end-of-life decisions are embedded.

Dr. Rountree’s scholarship uses her original empirical research to illuminate legal and social controversies.  Her article examining how prisoners' desires to die become normalized in court hearings over hastening execution recently appeared in Law & Society Review, and she is currently working on a paper exploring why terminally ill patients and death-sentenced prisoners have such different “rights” to die.  Dr. Rountree has three other noteworthy works in progress.  In addition to revising her dissertation into a book manuscript, she is writing a paper that considers the relevance of theories of mass incarceration – and its costs – to the practice of the death penalty.  This paper will be presented at the Capital Punishment Center’s Spring 2013 symposium, and published in the American Criminal Law Review.  In addition, she is co-authoring with Rob Owen an article marking the tenth anniversary of the American Bar Association’s “Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases” (2003).  This paper will be presented at a symposium at Hofstra Law School, and published in the Hofstra Law Review.  This paper marks the beginning of her next empirical project on how guidelines that do not have the authority and legitimacy of ethical rules interact with criminal defense practices.

Her legal experience consists primarily of handling criminal cases.  She has practiced in both private firm and public interest settings, representing clients facing a wide range of charges – from fraud to environmental crimes to homicide – eventually focusing her practice on capital cases.  She previously developed and taught a course at the law school on mental health issues in capital litigation. 

Dr. Rountree has also been involved in a range of activities concerning conditions of confinement.  After serving on the prisoners’ legal team in the final stages of the Ruiz class action litigation over Texas prison conditions, she founded and for three years directed a prison and jail project for the ACLU of Texas.  In that capacity, she participated in litigation as well as public education and advocacy.  She continues to be involved in Texas prison reform, particularly around mental health and medical issues.