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By Norman L. Reimer, Former NACDL Executive Director

May 2021 issue of The Champion

Overcriminalization, and its inevitable consequence, mass incarceration, are the hallmark of America’s failed criminal legal system. Mindless resort to the assertion of the state’s prosecutorial power to address every real or imagined problem is a phenomenon that just will not end. Politicians of all stripes simply cannot resist the temptation to impose criminal penalties in a pointless and cruel effort to regulate all manner of disfavored social, economic, or personal conduct. …


By Chris Adams, NACDL Immediate Past President

May 2021 issue of The Champion

Three weeks ago, I was awakened by a shrill alarm at 4:00 a.m. I needed to make the morning’s first flight out of Charleston for a suppression hearing three states away. This may have been the first time my alarm clock woke me up since March 6, 2020, and it was definitely my first flight for a client in 14 months.

All my travel muscles felt atrophied. My trusty roller bag wasn’t in its usual spot, having been banished to the highest and most out-of-the-way spot in…


By Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director

April 2021 issue of The Champion

Robert Rose was a teenager charged with killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend after a late-night confrontation on the stoop outside his mother’s home. In the course of a struggle over a gun, Robert shot him. Robert had no criminal record and voluntarily surrendered the next day. Despite the homicide charge, he was permitted to remain at liberty for the three years leading up to the trial. The jury rejected Robert’s claim of self-defense. Although the judge was required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years…


By Chris Adams, NACDL President

April 2021 issue of The Champion

If it were easy being a criminal defense lawyer, anyone could do it. Of course, there are spectacular days when we win justice for our clients. But there are also days when we leave the courthouse bloodied, dejected, and feeling alone. In the heaviness of those tough days, I try to practice gratitude for the opportunity to be a criminal defense lawyer and for our criminal defense community. …


By Chris Adams, NACDL President

March 2021 issue of The Champion

As a young public defender, we had an annual statewide conference. After hours, these conferences were uniformly outstanding social events, but the days were filled with inconsistent legal education. O ne of the most dreaded sessions was the annual legislative update. Typically, some obscure state representative — probably a judge’s second cousin who couldn’t care less about public defense — would deliver the update. Unsurprisingly, these presentations were dull and unmemorable.

One year was different. That year, a progressive African American state representative presented the legislative update. But before…


By Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director

March 2021 issue of The Champion

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the passage of one year since the advent of the pandemic, a year of challenge like few in the nation’s history, NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer has adapted an excerpt from his recent report to the Board of Directors.

The United States of America has been transformed. It is not and never will be what it once was. Even as the nation averted one cataclysm, another one rages on. A pervasive sense of vulnerability that was always borne by some in American…


By Chris Adams, NACDL President

January-February 2021 issue of The Champion

On January 25, 1889, the federal government hanged Richard Smith, a Choctaw Indian, for a murder on tribal land in Arkansas. In the history of the death penalty in the United States, executions have been common in election years. But Smith’s was different. Richard Smith’s execution was remarkable because President Grover Cleveland held the execution after having lost the electoral college vote to Benjamin Harrison. We had not had another lame-duck execution for a federal offense for almost 132 years.

Until now. President Trump presided over the lame-duck execution…


By Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director

December 2020 issue of The Champion

Summary: In December 2020, NACDL released model legislation and an accompanying report discussing “second look” legislation. The proposed legislation is a fully developed draft bill for consideration by the states.

Except for the persistence of capital punishment, there is no greater tyranny in the criminal legal system than excessive sentencing. Borne of the political exploitation of crime, often fed by racially disparate polices, and emblematic of an utter disregard for fundamental notions of humanity and redemption, double- and triple-digit sentences, as well as life sentences, many times…


By Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director

January/February 2021 issue of The Champion

March 22, 2021, Intro to Medium Edition: The recent series of stories targeting people for using connections and other resources in an effort to secure clemency for deserving individuals only highlights what is yet another glaring problem in the U.S. criminal legal system — individuals have the right to petition for clemency but no accompanying right to counsel for that purpose, leaving the vast majority of deserving petitioners with virtually no chance of relief. …


By Norman L. Reimer, NACDL Executive Director

November 2020 issue of The Champion

Back in August 2014, in remarks delivered at NACDL’s Annual Meeting, then-Attorney General Eric Holder sounded an alarm bell about the use of risk assessment tools. While noting that intensive analysis and data-driven approaches can be useful at various phases of the criminal legal process, he cautioned that especially when employed to drive front-end decision-making, such as sentence determination, “basing sentencing decisions on static factors and immutable characteristics — like the defendant’s education level, socioeconomic background, or neighborhood — may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are…

NACDL

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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