Clifford Chance wins landmark death row reprieve

Clifford Chance has succeeded in its attempt to secure a stay of execution for Jack Alderman, the US’s longest-serving death row prisoner.

On Wednesday (17 October), Alderman was moved to the execution building in his Georgia jail. He was being prepared for execution when news of the stay came through at 4pm eastern time yesterday (Thursday 18 October).

Clifford Chance partner Jeremy Sandelson said he was “overjoyed” at the decision. “This has been a huge team effort that has included many lawyers and supporters.

“The fact that we have succeeded in securing a stay of execution is a huge tribute to them. It would have been a travesty of justice if Jack had been executed after 33 years on death row.”

As reported by The Lawyer (8 October), three Clifford Chance teams have been working pro bono since March on the Alderman case. Working alongside them was a team from Outer Temple Chambers led by Richard Lissack QC, who echoed Sandelson when he said, “By the Georgia courts finally yielding to the stay a gross injustice has been avoided”.

On 1 October, the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal that he had been the victim of ineffective counselling in his original trial.

Clifford Chance and a wide group of supporters, including the Outer Temple team, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith (now of Debevoise & Plimpton) and UK Bar Council chair Geoffrey Vos immediately turned their focus to a challenge to execution by lethal injection on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Clifford Chance also continued to seek a new trial based on new evidence it claims to have uncovered.

The Supreme Court of Georgia said in a statement yesterday that the Alderman case, “raises the issue of the constitutionality of lethal injection as the method by which a capital sentence may be carried out”.

The stay will remain in place until the outcome of the Supreme Court’s review of the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution. A decision is not expected until next spring at the earliest.