Blog of Rights

Brian
Stull

Brian Stull is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. He has served as trial and appellate counsel in capital cases in North Carolina and Texas. Before joining the ACLU, Stull worked for five years at the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) in New York City, where he represented indigent criminal defendants convicted of serious felonies on direct appeal and in post-conviction and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Stull holds a B.A. and a M.S.W. from the University of Michigan and graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law.

North Carolina Moves Against Executions Based on Race

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 5:44pm
"Ain't it a great day in North Carolina!" North Carolina General Assembly Representative Larry Womble celebrated with these words this morning, moments before North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue signed into law a bill Rep. Womble championed entitled the "Racial Justice Act". The bill will allow criminal defendants facing the death penalty to introduce statistics as evidence of impermissible racial discrimination in their capital sentencing proceedings.

The Empty Promise of Appointed Clemency Counsel in Texas

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 11:53am

Despite a recent Untied States Supreme Court decision protecting the rights of indigent death-row inmates seeking executive clemency, Texas has continued to execute people without pausing to give effect to the high court's ruling. As a result, Texas has executed two men — Michael Rosales and Derrick Johnson — who had made strong factual showings of mental retardation but were either not afforded a lawyer or were not allowed a full hearing on their claims.

On April 1, 2009, April Fool's Day, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Harbison v. Bell (PDF), deciding that federal law entitles indigent state death-row prisoners access to clemency counsel — a lawyer appointed by a federal district court to represent prisoners during executive clemency proceedings. The Supreme Court observed that clemency is the last "fail safe" where the judicial process has failed to prevent a "miscarriage of justice." The "fail safe" of clemency in Texas is of critical importance given that the appeals of death-row inmates too often are dismissed based on procedural problems — a defense lawyer filing an appeal late, for example — that are outside prisoners' control.

Harbison overruled various lower federal court decisions, including a 2002 decision that denied the right to appointed clemency counsel to Texas death-row inmates. Since 2002, Texas has executed 180 people denied the right the right to counsel the Harbison decision found was mandated by federal law. What's worse, Rosales and Johnson were executed after the Harbison decision, but without being afforded the protections the decision requires.

Former Execution Volunteer Joins ACLU Lethal Injection Suit

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 3:13pm
On October 15, 2007, the State of Nevada was set to execute by lethal injection death-row inmate William Castillo, who had abandoned his appeals and volunteered for execution. In late September, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case Baze v.…
Day 1 of Velez Innocence Hearing: A Family Comes to Court for Justice

Day 1 of Velez Innocence Hearing: A Family Comes to Court for Justice

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 12:34pm

The façade of the U.S. Supreme Court bears the motto “equal justice under law.” But that ideal is not confined to our high court. People across this nation seek out the courts for equal justice

Update: Intellectually Disabled Georgia Man Faces Monday Execution if Supreme Court Does Not Step In

Update: Intellectually Disabled Georgia Man Faces Monday Execution if Supreme Court Does Not Step In

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 11:47am

Georgia stands poised to execute Warren Hill on Monday even though a Georgia court affirmed yesterday that Hill has an IQ of only 70.

Prosecutors Delay Historic Racial Justice Act Hearing

By Anna Arceneaux, Staff Attorney, ACLU Capital Punishment Project & Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 3:17pm

More than two years after the North Carolina Legislature enacted an historic law barring race discrimination in death penalty cases, Marcus Robinson and his lawyers were in Cumberland County Superior Court earlier this week to argue his claim under…

Texas AG's Flawed Opinion Need Not Spell End to Scrutiny of Convictions and Executions Based on Junk Science

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 1:05pm

An opinion letter issued on Friday by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is the latest chapter in Texas’s efforts to cover up its 2004 execution of an innocent man named Cameron Todd Willingham. The letter concerns the scope of authority of the…

Texas Puts Head in Sand at Prospect of Executing Innocent People

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 4:45pm

The highest criminal court in Texas yesterday halted an historic hearing in which lawyers for a man accused of murder and facing the death penalty argued that capital punishment is unconstitutional because it carries high risks that innocent people…

Medication Shortage Reveals Some States' Shamefully Wrong Priorities

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 12:35pm

The last-minute legal maneuverings over the pending execution of Albert Brown in California this past week put a spotlight on sodium thiopental, one of drugs used in lethal injection executions.

Physicians use sodium thiopental as an anesthetic…

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