Wragges fights for fair trial in Missouri death row case

Wragge & Co is advising pro bono on the firm’s first-ever death row case.

Tim Corsfield, a senior Wragges litigator, has teamed up with the Birmingham branch of death row campaign group Amicus Capital Legal Assistance and the University of Central England (UCE) to prepare a brief for convicted murderer Carmen Deck in relation to a decision of the Supreme Court of Missouri. Deck was sentenced to death after a dual murder during an armed robbery.

Deck’s legal team is preparing an amicus curiae brief to be submitted to file with the supreme court on Wednesday (1 December) arguing that Deck’s human and constitutional rights were breached because he was paraded in front of the sentencing jury fitted with shackles.

UCE law lecturer Julian Killingley, who is also working on the case, argued that although it is normal for defendants to be in chains when they are being transported to the court, chains during the sentencing phase of a trial is prejudicial.

However, the supreme court has never decided whether defendants should be forced to appear in front of a jury appearing in chains during the penalty phase of a hearing.

Defendants may be required to wear chains if the court believes they will disrupt the hearing, but Killingley argued that there was no evidence suggesting Deck would be disruptive.

Commenting on Wragges’ contribution to the case, Killingley said: “They [Wragges] have an interest in recruiting the best graduates. It is attractive to potential applicants that the firm is willing to put its own efforts towards human rights. It doesn’t do British law firms any harm to ensure all countries adhere to human rights.”

The head of Wragges’ community investments Steve Butts has welcomed the opportunity for the firm to become directly involved with a death row case and recalled the telephone call he received from Amicus. “It’s one of those moments when you get a phone call and it sets your heart racing,” said Butts. “As a lawyer you’re genuinely motivated and moved. Primarily our pro bono work is very locally based. This is a bit different. There are a significant number of lawyers at the firm who are interested in this case because it involves human rights.”

Wragges’ commitment to pro bono work has resulted in a commercial property associate being seconded on a full-time basis to work alongside Butts.