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California convicts on death row just found a new friend in U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. The school announced last week that it plans to open the first death penalty law clinic run by a law school in California in early July. Only about a half-dozen other schools around the country run clinics targeted at serving death-row inmates. “The goals are primarily pedagogical, to teach the students about real-world cases where they’ll have to deal with messy facts and ambiguous issues,” said John Dwyer, the dean at Boalt Hall. “The second aspect is public service.” With 585 inmates currently facing the death penalty, California has more inmates sitting on death row than any other state. At least 160 of them have no legal representation in their appeals, according to a Boalt Hall press release. At the clinic, students will primarily work on habeas corpus cases, doing everything from case investigation and witness interviews to spearheading appeals in state and federal courts. With five years of funding donated by Nick McKeown and Peter Davies, a pair of anti-death penalty Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the center expects 12 to 14 students to participate in the clinic’s first year, Dwyer said. “The students have been very excited for a long time with criminal law and with the death penalty in particular,” said Charles Weisselberg, who is director of Boalt’s Center for Clinical Education. “I think the students will bring a lot of energy to the cases, and they’ll provide really excellent representation for the clients.” Boalt has already begun a nationwide search to hire a death penalty specialist to run the center and supervise its students. Dwyer said he expects to finish accepting applications by the end of January and name the clinic’s director by mid-March. The Death Penalty Clinic will join the Human Rights Law Clinic and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Boalt’s Center for Clinical Education. Ross Hanig’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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