Capital Defense Lawyer Kelley Henry on Death Penalty Litigation During a Pandemic

In the May 2020 edition of Discussions with DPIC, Executive Director Robert Dunham speaks with Kelley Henry, a Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender in Nashville, Tennessee who has represented Tennessee death-row prisoners for more than twenty years. They discuss the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on capital litigation, especially the final investigations and clemency efforts that take place in the months leading up to an execution.

Henry describes the critical, in-person work that must take place to investigate innocence claims, determine a prisoner’s competency to be executed, and tell a prisoner’s story in a clemency petition, and why it is impossible to adequately perform that work while complying with efforts to protect the public health. She also discusses the danger of performing executions during the pandemic, and the reasons why states should put executions on hold to ensure the health of prisoners, witnesses, and corrections staff.