Capital Punishment Committee Presents Annual Awards

As part of its Annual Post-Conviction Capital Defense Training Program on July 25, 2017, the Committee on Capital Punishment of the New York City Bar Association conferred three awards in a ceremony held in the Great Hall of the Association. The awards seek to honor former NYU Law School Dean Norman Redlich’s legacy by recognizing those members of the New York bar who have emulated his life-long dedication to challenging the death penalty. 

The Committee presented the fifth annual Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award to renowned death penalty and civil rights lawyer George Kendall. 

The 2017 Norman Redlich Pro Bono Award went to Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP for its work on several death penalty cases and for participating in efforts to abolish the death penalty.  

The Norman Redlich Special Recognition award was made to Dr. Arthur Zitrin, a long-standing, and currently emeritus, member of the Committee. A veteran not of the legal but of the medical profession, Dr. Zitrin took an unusual, and unusually creative, approach to advocating the abolition of the death penalty. For more on Dr. Zitrin’s accomplishments, read the piece by William M. Erlbaum, who introduced and conferred the award upon him, here.

Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service Award

George Kendall currently serves as the Director of the Pro Bono program at Squire Patton Boggs, and has handled capital cases at trial, on appeal, and post-conviction throughout the United States for over thirty-five years. George also advises capital attorneys throughout the country, in addition to chairing the board of directors at the Death Penalty Information Center. Over the years, he has taught criminal justice at numerous law schools and has also consulted on important policy initiatives with organizations such as the NAACP and the Innocence Project.  

On hand to present the award to George Kendall was his friend Kevin Doyle. In 2012, Kevin received the inaugural Norman Redlich Distinguished Service Award for his work leading the New York State Capital Defender’s Office, which oversaw the effective end of the death penalty in New York in 2004. Decades prior, Kevin and George had worked together in the South, where each had relocated to do capital defense work. Kevin began his introduction of George with the Winston Churchill quote “Great and good are seldom the same man,” and then proceeded to describe George as the rare exception to that rule. He detailed George’s tireless advocacy, generosity, and gentle spirit. 

In accepting the award, George expressed his belief that despite the uncertain national political climate, capital punishment is on the decline and abolition will soon be within reach. 

Norman Redlich Capital Defense Pro Bono Award 

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP was recognized for its work on several death penalty cases and for participating in efforts to abolish the death penalty. The firm’s representation of death row inmates includes James Ben Brownfield, an inmate currently on Alabama’s death row; Richard Gaddy, an Alabama death row inmate who died a natural death after 17 years in prison; and Michael Taylor, a Missouri death row inmate who was executed by the state after serving over 20 years in prison.  

Patterson Belknap has also filed numerous amicus briefs on behalf of various organizations in death penalty cases, including on behalf of the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Catholic Reporter. In addition, Patterson Belknap’s attorneys have donated over 900 hours of service to death penalty education and abolition efforts. These efforts include visiting local high schools to make presentations on the death penalty and participating in seminars designed to educate schoolteachers on how to effectively teach about the death penalty. 

The award was accepted by Muhammad Faridi, a Partner at Patterson Belknap, a former Chair of the Committee on Capital Punishment, and currently Secretary of the City Bar’s Executive Committee. Mr. Faridi stated that he was accepting the award on behalf of clients whose life the firm was able to save and also those who were ultimately executed. He stated, “As any death-penalty lawyer who’s lost a client will tell you, the impact of losing a client is significant and long-lasting. It is, in some respects, more devastating than losing a loved one to an illness or an accident. When you lose a client, after the trauma, you’re left thinking that maybe you could have done something differently. You feel a sense of responsibility.” 

Mr. Faridi elaborated, “But a loss is also perhaps more motivating than a win. When you win, you feel at peace, at rest. A loss is gripping. It creates a zeal; a determination that you’re not going to allow this injustice to happen to another human being.”