Pro Bono > Death Penalty Trial Defense

For more than a decade, Akin Gump has taken a preeminent role among U.S. law firms in providing effective pro bono trial representation for indigent defendants facing the death penalty. Under the leadership of Washington, D.C. litigation partner Mark MacDougall, since 2002 teams of Akin Gump lawyers have tried five capital murder cases to a jury verdict in courts in the state of South Carolina and have obtained the pre-trial withdrawal of the death penalty notice for several other clients facing capital punishment.

Most recently, in October 2013, a jury in the Circuit Court for Beaufort County, SC returned a unanimous verdict of life in State v. Earnest Daise - a pro bono case taken to trial by Mr. MacDougall and a team of Akin Gump associates working in collaboration with the State Commission on Indigent Defense. The Daise trial marked the first unanimous life verdict by a jury in South Carolina in more than twelve years.

In April 2012, in a case originally designated for the death penalty, Mr. MacDougall and another team of Akin Gump associates obtained a verdict of life for the defendant in the case of State v. Clarence Jenkins in the Circuit Court for Greenville, SC. The Jenkins case marked the second capital case tried by Akin Gump lawyers in collaboration with the Circuit Public Defender for Greenville County.

One of the first capital cases defended by Akin Gump—South Carolina v. Bobby Lee Holmes—made legal history in 2006 when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed the client’s conviction and death sentence in an opinion that changed the law of third-party guilt evidence nationwide. Bobby Lee Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 2006 U.S. LEXIS 3454; 74 U.S.L. W. 4221 (2006). Akin Gump continued to represent Mr. Holmes following the reversal of his death sentence by the Supreme Court and he subsequently received a sentence of life imprisonment in the Circuit Court for York, SC.

Akin Gump’s longstanding and consistent defense of indigent clients facing capital punishment has received extensive recognition from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations and remains one of the foundation stones of the firm’s pro bono tradition.