Brad Levenson, a deputy federal public defender in California, will lead the first ever Texas Office of Capital Writs starting Sept. 1. His new job will require him to represent Texas death row inmates who claim their trials were botched and that they were wrongly convicted.
Texas lawmakers created the office in 2009 after a series of investigative reports and studies of the criminal justice system revealed serious problems with the quality of legal representation for indigent defendants on death row. Some of the lawyers whom judges had appointed to represent capital defendants had no death row experience, some had mental illness, some had abandoned their death row clients, and some of the lawyers chosen by judges were dead.
So lawmakers created the Office of Capital Writs to provide better representation for people on death row who can't afford to pay their own lawyers to challenge their sentences. Levenson, who has extensive experience with post-conviction cases in California, has only tried one such case in Texas, which has the busiest death row in the nation. And even before he's opened his office, he must deal with a 5 percent budget cut. He'll have to hire about 10 staffers and work about a dozen cases a year with $991,000, down from what was supposed to be a $1 million budget. But Levenson said he's up for the challenge.
Though he's still living in California right now, Levenson said he will be in Texas before Sept. 1 to launch the new office. When he does move here, he will find himself among a minority in the state who oppose the death penalty.
Earlier coverage of the office begins with this post.