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Capital Punishment Center

Imprisoned by the Past: The Enduring Role of Race in the American Death Penalty

Capital Defense Lawyering and Practice A Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Capital Punishment Clinic at UT School of Law

Eidman Courtroom, UT Law School
April 16, 2009 10:15 to 5:15 p.m.

Panelist Bios


George H. Kendall is a senior counsel in the New York office of Holland & Knight. He works exclusively on the community services team that devotes all of its attention to pro bono matters.  A graduate of the University of Richmond and Antioch Law School, Mr. Kendall left private practice in criminal defense to head the ACLU’s 11th Circuit Capital Litigation Project and later joined the capital defense team at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.  He has handled death penalty cases around the country at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction proceedings, including in the United States Supreme Court, and regularly consults with capital defense lawyers nationwide.  At LDF, he edited the newsletter Race Notes, which advanced new arguments and strategies to minimize the influence of racial bias in the criminal justice system. He has taught courses on criminal justice issues at Yale Law School, Florida State University College of Law and St. John's School of Law.

Joseph E. Lambert was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky from 1998 to 2008.  He was elected to that post by his fellow justices after serving as a justice from 1986-1998.  During his tenure, he focused on implementing cutting-edge programs in technology, court records, judicial education, justice facilities, pretrial services, promotion of women, and specialized family and drug courts. Educated at Georgetown (Ky.) College and the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, Chief Justice Lambert has received numerous awards including the Public Service Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy and the Civil Rights Award from both the Northern Kentucky NAACP and the Lexington NAACP for his commitment to eliminating discrimination. In October 2007, he was appointed by Hon. John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to a three-year term on the Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction of the Judicial Conference of the United States, to study proposed changes in federal jurisdiction and to serve as a liaison with the state courts.

Maurie Levin is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin.  A graduate of Vassar College and Northeastern University School of Law, she has represented capital defendants in state and federal court in Texas and Virginia since 1993. She co-teaches the Capital Punishment Clinic, and also works with the Mexican Legal Assistance Project, advising attorneys representing Mexican nationals on Texas' death row. In 2008 she was recognized by Texas Lawyer as one of thirty “Extraordinary Woman in Texas Law.” 

Jim Marcus is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin.  A graduate of U.T.’s Plan II Honors Program and the University of Houston Law Center, he is one of the foremost capital habeas corpus litigators in the United States.  He began his legal career with the Texas Resource Center and then led the non-profit capital defense project Texas Defender Service from 1995 to 2006, when he joined the Capital Punishment Clinic.  Professor Marcus trains post-conviction counsel and lectures in capital defense across the nation.  He is a director of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and four times has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Texas Lawyer.

Robert McGlasson is a criminal defense attorney in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, specializing in capital cases.  A graduate of Yale Law School, he served as a law clerk for the Hon. Elbert P. Tuttle on the 11th Circuit before beginning his career as a capital defense attorney in 1983.   Mr. McGlasson has worked both in private practice and in a variety of non-profit settings, including the Southern Prisoners’ Defense Committee (now the Southern Center for Human Rights), the Texas Resource Center and the University of Texas Capital Punishment Clinic (both of which he founded), and the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta.   He has served as counsel to persons facing the death penalty at all stages of the criminal process, including trial, appeal, and post-conviction, in states throughout the country, focusing most of his efforts in the South.  Mr. McGlasson recently represented Brian Nichols, charged with the 2005 Atlanta courthouse shootings, who in late 2008 was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Steve McGonigle, 55, has been a reporter at The Dallas Morning News since 1981. He is currently assigned to the Projects Desk. Previously, he worked as the county courthouse reporter and legal affairs writer, and government affairs and criminal justice reporter for the Metro Desk. From 1989 to 1995, he covered the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Department for The News’ Washington Bureau. He previously worked as a reporter at the Corpus Christi Caller Times and Abilene Reporter News. He earned a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University and an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Texas in Austin. He is a native of Houston. His awards include the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the American Bar Association Silver Gavel, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, the Texas Headliners Award and the Associated Press Managing Editors of Texas public service award.

Rob Owen is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin.  A graduate of the University of Georgia and Harvard Law School, he has been a criminal defense lawyer for twenty years, spending most of his time on death penalty cases.  He has argued and won capital appeals in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Fifth and Ninth Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court.  He co-directs the Capital Punishment Center, teaches traditional lecture courses on capital punishment, and leads a freshman seminar on the death penalty in the undergraduate Plan II Honors Program.

Melynda Price, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law.  A graduate of Prairie View A&M University and the School of Law of the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Price earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan.  She is spending the 2008-09 academic year as a Research Fellow with the Capital Punishment Center, with funding from the Ford Foundation supporting her research into the intersections of race, religion, and capital punishment.

Elisabeth Semel is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Death Penalty Clinic at Boalt Hall, the University of California (Berkeley).  A graduate of Bard College and the University of California at Davis School of Law, she spent five years as a public defender and seventeen in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer concentrating on homicide trials and capital cases.  In 1997, she took on the job of directing the ABA’s Death Penalty Representation Project.  In 2001, she joined the Boalt faculty; leading the Death Penalty Clinic, she represents death-sentenced clients in Alabama and California and engages in related litigation such as filing amicus curiae briefs, certiorari petitions, clemency petitions, and pretrial motions.  She has received many awards, has written numerous articles about criminal defense practice, and often comments in the media on issues relating to criminal justice and the death penalty.

Jordan Steiker, who holds the Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law, is a Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin.  A graduate of Wesleyan University and Harvard Law School, Professor Steiker joined the faculty in 1990 after serving as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is Co-Director of the law school’s Capital Punishment Center, and has written extensively on constitutional law, federal habeas corpus, and the death penalty.  Professor Steiker has also represented numerous death-sentenced prisoners in Texas, arguing in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Bryan A. Stevenson is founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and a professor at New York University School of Law.  A graduate of Eastern College (now Eastern University), Harvard Law School, and the Harvard School of Government, he has won the ABA’s Wisdom Award for public service, the ACLU's National Medal of Liberty (1991), a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award, the Reebok Human Rights Award (1989), the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993), the Olof Palme Prize (2000), and NAPIL’s Public Interest Lawyer of the Year (1996).  In addition to leading EJI, Mr. Stevenson has been a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law and lecturer at Harvard and Yale Law Schools.

Christina Swarns is Director of the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc.  A graduate of Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she first served as a staff attorney at the Criminal Defense Division of the New York Legal Aid Society.  Later, Ms. Swarns was a Supervising Assistant Federal Defender in the Capital Habeas Unit of the Philadelphia Federal Defender, where she represented numerous condemned prisoners.  One of her clients, Nicholas Yarris, was the first death-sentenced prisoner in Pennsylvania to be exonerated by DNA evidence.   In her current position, she represents individuals charged with and/or convicted of criminal and capital offenses, prepares amicus briefs to various courts including the United States Supreme Court, and coordinates nationwide strategies for criminal justice reform.  She previously led LDF’s Race and Criminal Justice Reform Initiative, working to innovate new litigation strategies for challenging criminal justice laws and policies that detrimentally affect African Americans. 


For more information please contact Rob Owen at, 512.232.9391.