Brief filed in death penalty post-conviction case

Aug 16, 2012

The NASW Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in May on behalf of the association in support of a petition for certiorari in a death penalty post-conviction case. The brief seeks to have the U.S. Supreme Court accept the case, Abdur’Rahman v. Colson, for review.

Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman is on death row because of his counsel’s failure to offer the jury evidence of his compelling and excruciating life history and mental illness as mitigating factors in weighing whether to spare his life, according to the brief.

It contends that readily available documentary and testimonial evidence would have shown that Abdur’Rahman suffered from a serious mental illness, including borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation and delusional thinking. The brief argues that had counsel fulfilled their professional responsibility to uncover and use this compelling mitigating evidence during the defendant’s sentencing, it would have caused the jury to be less likely to impose a death sentence.

A pro bono legal team from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP drafted and filed the brief for NASW.

NASW and the NASW Florida Chapter filed an amicus brief in May in the Florida Supreme Court through the work of the NASW LDF. In DMT v. TMH, the brief addresses the rights of a child to have a relationship with both same-sex parents after they separate.

In this case, one partner in a lesbian couple provided her ova, which was implanted in the other partner, who gave birth to the child. The couple jointly shared in raising the child in their home for several years until the relationship ended, according to the brief.

The birth mother is attempting to deny the biological mother all access to the child, although there are no findings of unfit parenting. The brief provides the court with background information on the social science research supporting the importance to children of maintaining their primary parent-child attachment relationships without interruption throughout their developmental years.

Lawyers from Wilmer Cutlter Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP provided NASW’s pro bono representation in this matter.

From the July 2012 NASW News.