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Lawyers in death penalty cases go to 'college' at SCU

Tuesday, Jul. 31, 2001

SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 31, 2001 - Defense lawyers with pending capital cases in federal courts and a dozen state courts convene at Santa Clara University School of Law on Aug.4 for a week of sharing strategies and ideas with some of the nation's leading death penalty attorneys.

The 10th annual Death Penalty College, presented by Santa Clara University, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association and cosponsored by the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project, offers an intensive training program where defense lawyers discuss their cases in small-group workshops.

Visiting faculty include: Steve Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta; David Ruhnke, of Morristown, N.J., one of the lead defense lawyers in the World Trade Center bombing case; John Niland, coordinator for death penalty lawyers in Texas; Hank Hall, of Los Angeles, attorney in the case of the slaying of Bill Cosby's son; Lis Semel of the Boalt Death Penalty Clinic at University of California, Berkeley; and SCU's Ellen Kreitzberg, founder and director of the one-week summer "college" at the SCU law school.

The workshop sessions, which begin Saturday, Aug.4, and continue through Thursday, Aug.9, are not open to the public or media, because of lawyer-client privilege. (Faculty will be available for media interviews each day at 1 p.m.)

"The college fosters a feeling of cooperation and community among participants and faculty who are united in the common goal of saving lives," said Kreitzberg, who teaches criminal law at SCU.

"Every criminal defense attorney faces his or her greatest challenge in the representation of a person charged in a capital case," Kreitzberg wrote in the conference brochure, which referred to the "intense intellectual and emotional toll …(of) capital litigation."

Until a similar one-week college was established at Ann Arbor, Michigan, two years ago, the SCU law school program had been the only one of its kind in the country, and it has consistently attracted leading death penalty attorneys.

The Death Penalty College is named after Bryan R. Schechmeister, a former Santa Clara County public defender and one of the originators of the program's concept, who died of a brain tumor in the summer of SCU's inaugural program.

The Death Penalty College has been approved for 36 hours of minimum continuing legal education credit by the State Bar of California.


Background on the SCU School of Law
The SCU School of Law, founded in 1912, combines a tradition of excellence with a commitment to ethics, diversity, and social justice, and is fully accredited by the American Bar Association. Its 933 students work in criminal and civil community law clinics, and may earn certificates in intellectual property law, international law or public interest law, and L.L.M. degrees in intellectual property law and international law.

Background on Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University is a private, Jesuit university with 4,300 undergraduate and 3,050 graduate students offering a rigorous undergraduate curriculum and nationally recognized business, engineering and law schools, plus interdisciplinary centers that promote ethics, social justice, and explore the impact of technology. In the 2000-01 academic year, the University was named for the 11th straight year the top regional university west of the Rockies by U.S. News and World Report, and won commendation from the American Association of Colleges and Universities for Distinguished Achievement in Undergraduate Education.


For more information about the Death Penalty College, see For information about Santa Clara University, see Kreitzberg and selected participants may be available for media interviews at 1 p.m. each day, Aug.6-9. To set up interviews Monday through Thursday, call Barry Holtzclaw, media relations, at 408-554-5126, or email

Tags: death-penalty

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