ACLU Expands Capital Punishment Project

December 9, 2005 12:00 am

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Attorney John Holdridge Will Spearhead New Direction

NEW YORK – In the wake of the 1,000th death penalty execution in the modern era, the American Civil Liberties Union today announced the hiring of John Holdridge as the new director of its Capital Punishment Project. The project is expanding its resources and programs to now include litigation in addition to public education as part of the ACLU’s longstanding effort to end the death penalty in the United States.

“John Holdridge is one of the nation’s premier death penalty litigators,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “He has fought the death penalty in courtrooms around the country for more than a decade, and now brings that expertise and commitment to the ACLU.”

Holdridge will build on the successful public education and advocacy programs that have been the hallmark of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project by expanding the scope of the project to include litigation. “The Project will focus on cases that highlight the unfairness and inequality of the death penalty system,” according to Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU’s National Legal Director.

Prior to his appointment at the ACLU, Holdridge was a public defender in Connecticut’s Capital Defense and Trial Services Unit and, before that, he spent 11 years as director of the Mississippi and Louisiana Capital Trial Assistance Project in New Orleans. In these capacities, Holdridge has represented numerous clients at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction proceedings. These clients include Michael Graham and Larry Maxwell, both innocent defendants who faced death by execution and were later freed.

Holdridge wrote the pleadings and co-argued the seminal case of State v. Peart, in which the Louisiana Supreme Court recognized that indigent defendants have a right to effective counsel and that the overwhelming caseloads of the indigent defender system in New Orleans violated that right. He is a graduate of New York University School of Law and in 2001 received the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Life in the Balance Achievement Award.

“I look forward to my tenure with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project with great anticipation,” said Holdridge. “The ACLU has a proud tradition of opposing the death penalty, and I am excited to build on those efforts through strategic litigation and public advocacy.”

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