US Criminal Defence Team inspires Audience Yesterday [i.e. 27 April 2012] four US criminal defence lawyers visited Stirling to run a panel discussion on their experiences of defending some of America’s most disadvantaged people, and their views about US criminal justice, including the death penalty. Chris Leibig, Joe King, Joni Robin and Cary Citronberg have long experience of civil liberties work in Virginia and DC. So, they had some horror stories to tell about the treatment of defendants in a nation which has “the highest incarceration rate on Earth” – but we also heard some lessons about the US defence of liberties which Scotland surely needs to learn. The entertaining speakers got a sometimes passionate discussion going. Arguments ranged from Trayvon Martin to Tony Martin, criminalised migrants, Supermax prisons and our British complacency about the misuse of CCTV. Tales about Death Row shocked even those of us who thought we were well informed. The discussion was not all one way: student members of Amnesty attended and spoke about their heartbreaking experiences of trying to save the life of Troy Davis, executed last year by lethal injection in Georgia, even though several witnesses recanted after the trial. Despite being two hours long, the event overran, with people queuing up to speak to the panel afterward. This was no surprise, given that it would be hard to think of a better chance to hear everything from jurisprudential analysis to the emotional tax of visiting a prisoner held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. It was great to see that we have a good many politically active and interested students in the University, and we are grateful to Chris’ team for generously giving up so much of their time.
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