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Summer 2004 Newsletter

Lunchtime Speaker Series
The May 2004 lunchtime speaker series, co-hosted by Dorsey & Whitney, was presented by local attorneys Jeff Keyes and Steve Wells, who each discussed their pro bono capital cases. One CLE credit has been granted. The July 2004 lunchtime speaker series, “Jeremiah Jackson v. State of Alabama: Making Atkins v. Virginia Matter,” was presented by local attorneys Bruce Manning and Brooke Tassoni. Application will be made for one CLE credit. The next lunchtime speaker series will be in September 2004. For more information, please visit the Death Penalty Project Lunchtime Speaker Series section of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights’ website.

Death Penalty Project website
Links to news, online reports, lobbying tools, law, litigation strategies, and organizations are now available on the Death Penalty Project section of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights’ website. In addition, overviews on various issues will be posted soon.



Recent Successes of Minnesota Lawyers in Capital Cases

In the landmark case of Avena and other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States), Minnesota attorney Sandra Babcock won a victory in the International Court of Justice for many foreign nationals awaiting execution in the United States.  Representing the government of Mexico, Babcock successfully argued that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform fifty-four Mexican death row inmates of their right to consular assistance prior to trial.  The I.C.J. held that the Convention mandated specific relief for these inmates, ultimately calling into question the death sentences of over one hundred foreign nationals whose Convention rights were violated by the United States.  Babcock’s success in the I.C.J. recently made a strong impact in Oklahoma, where Governor Brad Henry honored the Avena decision by commuting Mexican national Osbaldo Torres’ death sentence on May 14, 2004.  

In another remarkable Minnesota success story, attorneys from Dorsey & Whitney LLP convinced a federal judge in Lubbock, Texas to grant relief in a death penalty case for the first time in his career on the bench.  On 25 June 2004, Judge Sam Cummings overturned the death sentence of Joe Lee Guy, who was sent to death row for his role as lookout in a 1993 robbery and murder.  Guy’s capital trial was fraught with misconduct, and his sentence was grossly disproportionate given that the actual killers received only life imprisonment.  Due to the pro bono efforts of Dorsey’s attorneys, who include Steve Wells, Pat McLaughlin, Bob Bundy, Andre Hanson, Todd Trumpold, Marissa Hesse and Charles Moore, Guy will likely receive a life sentence.    

Faegre & Benson LLP has also achieved recent success as lead counsel for its pro bono capital client, Ronald Lee Sanders, who has been on California's death row since 1982.  On 8 July 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Sanders' death sentence, and he will now likely receive a life sentence without parole.  The Ninth Circuit found that California's Supreme Court did not adequately review Sanders' sentence, which was based on erroneous jury instruction.  The attorneys at Faegre, led by Eric Jorstad, assisted by Anne Mahle and Mary Cullen Yeager, have been representing Sanders for over eleven years.

Roman Catholic Bishops of Minnesota and North Dakota Urge Federal Prosecutors Not to Seek Death for Rodriguez


At the end of June 2004, Roman Catholic bishops from Minnesota and North Dakota prepared a joint statement opposing the death penalty for Alfonzo Rodriguez, Jr.