The Georgia Appellate Practice & Educational Resource Center (“Georgia Resource Center”) is a small 501(c)(3) non-profit law office providing free representation to indigent death-sentenced prisoners in Georgia who are in state and federal habeas corpus proceedings challenging their capital convictions and death sentences. The Center, housed in the basement of an Atlanta pizza restaurant and comprised of an Executive Director, six staff attorneys, four investigators and an Office Administrator, has been in operation for more than 20 years. Georgia is the only state in the country which does not provide a right to counsel for death-sentenced inmates in post-conviction proceedings. The Resource Center was established in 1988 to provide such representation – whether through recruiting and assisting volunteer counsel or by direct representation – for all of Georgia’s approximately 100 death row prisoners in habeas corpus proceedings. The Georgia Resource Center is the only organization in Georgia with this mandate. The Center does not pick and choose its cases based on their likelihood of success, but rather advocates on behalf of every death-sentenced inmate following direct appeal over many years through to final resolution of their case. The Center’s work frequently results in reversed convictions and death sentences, but, even when it does not, the Center fights until literally the last minute to ensure that its clients’ rights are protected. For many clients, the knowledge that someone is diligently representing them allows them hope as well as a sense of dignity they may never have known.
Over the last two decades, the Center’s work has exposed major errors in capital trials, including deficient legal representation, state suppression of exculpatory evidence, and wrongful death sentencing of mentally retarded and severely mentally ill persons. These victories have helped to improve the quality of trial level capital defense representation and have helped ensure protection of mentally ill and mentally retarded offenders from capital punishment. The Center provides representation for its clients through final resolution of their cases, no matter the outcome. For example, the Center represented Georgia prisoner Troy Davis for 16 years, having conducted investigation which uncovered compelling evidence casting doubt on his culpability in the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, and thereafter, in cooperation with the Washington, D.C., firm of Arnold & Porter, represented Mr. Davis until his controversial execution in September 2011. The Center has represented, in one capacity or another, most of the death sentenced prisoners in Georgia, including recently executed prisoners Roy Blankenship and Brandon Rhode, whose executions the Center fought to prevent until literally the last moments before they were carried out. Most recently, the Center stopped the imminent execution in October 2011 of Marcus Johnson so that critical DNA testing could be carried out.