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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Center For Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Crime & Law, Legal Services

Mission: To provide direct representation to those on death row in north carolina as well as to provide consulting, research and training services to attorneys appointed to represent persons facing the death penalty in north carolina.

Programs: The center provides legal representation to individuals charged with or convicted of capital crimes. The center also consults with and trains attorneys appointed to represent persons facing the death penalty in north carolina.

the center is the primary source of information about the death penalty in north carolina, providing information on issues and cases to the media, policy-makers, advocates, attorneys, academics and the general public.

the organization serves as a fiscal sponsor for other entities involved in criminal justice education and reform.

Community Stories

14 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

Robert Mosteller

I am a member of the Board of CDPL and a retired law professor. I strongly support CDPL for its effective work against the death penalty and its wonderfully talented and committed staff.

In 1983, I returned to my home state of North Carolina to become a law professor at Duke University Law School after working for seven years at the Washington, D.C. Public Defender Service where I was Chief of the Trial Division. A few years later in 1986, I became co-counsel for a prisoner facing execution on North Carolina’s death row. Working with two of the lawyers who headed organizations that ultimately became CDPL, we were successful after eight years of litigation in overturning our client’s death penalty and having him removed from death row.

I have served as a member of CDPL’s Board since its inception, with a few brief interruptions required by its bylaws, and for a number of those years I was President of the Board. With the passage of the Racial Justice Act (RJA), I wrote a number of amicus briefs in support of CDPL’s litigation under the RJA. I also helped author two law review articles examining the sad history of race and the death penalty in North Carolina and the promise of the RJA to correct that unfortunate history. In the last year, thanks to the inspired work of CDPL and its allies, the North Carolina Supreme Court granted relief under the RJA for a group of defendants and recognized the right of many others to challenge their death sentence under the RJA. These are momentous accomplishments of which everyone at CDPL should be proud.

My work with the CDPL Board and in assisting in small ways its litigation efforts has been deeply rewarding. The lawyers, investigators, and mitigation staff are incredibly talented and hard working, making the most of our limited resources. CDPL handles its own cases but also provides critical assistance to lawyers across the state to defend those charged with capital offenses and to represent all who have been sentenced to death in challenging those sentences. Moreover, CDPL is dedicated to systemic change to eradicate the death penalty in North Carolina and help eliminate the systemic racism in the death penalty and throughout the criminal justice system.

CDPL and its work provide a model for what can be done in opposing the death penalty and working for positive change. I am honored to have had the opportunity to play a role in its important work.

Robert P. Mosteller
J. Dickson Phillips Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus
at the UNC School of Law
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been counsel in cases with CDPL counsel, served on their board and been Board President. No organization I have ever worked with has more committed staff and lawyers. Their work is of the highest quality. Their passion for the clients and their mission is inspiring. For anyone considering a way to support the work of an organization combatting racial injustice and the death penalty, a dollar donated here goes an incredibly long way.

Kris P.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The assistance CDPL attorneys and investigators provide for me and my cases is invaluable. They know where to find resources, understand the latest relevant court decisions, and always provide the support I need to do the best job I can for my clients.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CDPL is an amazing organization that does so much more than provide direct representation to individuals who are on death row in North Carolina. The organization helps improve the quality of criminal defense generally in North Carolina by providing consultation services and continuing education programs for attorneys who handle capital or potentially capital murder cases along with a wide variety of other criminal cases. Most recently, CDPL has engaged in an amazing effort to educate the public about the long-standing connections between American racism and the death penalty (see www.racistroots.org). Although CDPL's focus is on the death penalty, I continue to support it because its work improves criminal justice much more broadly.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CDPL is a nonprofit law firm with excellent leadership and dedicated staff. I worked at CDPL for several years, during which I was mentored and supported in all aspects of my work. While I was impressed with so many aspects of the organization, CDPL's commitment to litigating racial justice issues stood out in particular. The staff spend many hours each week working on racial justice litigation and projects. That commitment has led to positive outcomes in individual cases, favorable appellate opinions, and greater education and transparency about the racially biased nature of the death penalty. One cannot overstate the importance of CDPL in the movement to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am a civil rights lawyer in Raleigh and have served on the CDPL Board for 6 years. CDPL has played a crucial role in halting executions in North Carolina, exonerating innocent inmates on Death Row , and exposing the pervasive racial discrimination that has tainted so many death sentences. CDPL has a wonderful team committed to this difficult, essential work.

Meghann B.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a newly-minted Board member of CDPL, I've become even more familiar with the day-to-day workings of this organization. CDPL is led by tremendous staff attorneys who are on the frontier of civil and human rights litigation. Recent wins in Ramseur & Burke speak to why CDPL's work is more vital than ever - not just for ending capital punishment, but for addressing systemic racism in the criminal justice system head on. I'm proud to be affiliated with CDPL.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CDPL is a centerpiece of criminal justice reform in North Carolina. I worked at CDPL for several years and saw first hand how hard the staff works, the impact of their compassion and skill on their clients, and how much the organization has transformed the landscape of criminal defense litigation and the perception of the death penalty in our state.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a private attorney it has been my pleasure to work with the leaders at CDPL for 30 years. The nonprofit provides exemplary representation for death row inmates directly and also trains and encourages private attorneys to become capital defense attorneys and better advocates within the criminal justice system overall. Without CDPL North Carolina would not have the resources to protect these vulnerable clients whose cases highlight the problems with capital punishment - racial bias, inadequate prior representation, mental illness, intellectual disability and innocent people condemned to death.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have worked with CDPL attorneys for 10+ years on post-conviction capital cases. I have also served on the CDPL Board for 5 years. Their attorneys and staff are knowledgeable, dedicated, and compassionate. CDPL has played a substantial role in reducing the number of death sentences in NC during the past 15 years and has been involved in removing numerous individuals from death row. I strongly support this organization.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I began working for CDPL as an investigator in 1998. I worked there for several years and was always impressed by their dedication, depth of expertise, and careful stewardship of resources. I worked there for three years.

Now in 2020 I am on the Board of Directors at CDPL and some of the same key staff members are still working there and are even more committed to and passionate about their work! In these difficult times CDPL deserves additional recognition for creating and maintaining a successful financial model for nonprofit management. They make careful, judicious use of the resources with which they have been entrusted.

I give CDPL my highest recommendation!

Cindy A.7

Board Member

Rating: 5

The staff of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation have tirelessly worked for justice for those facing death sentences and execution in North Carolina since the early 1990s (when it was known as the NC Resource Center). The work is grueling but the staff never give up. They have had numerous successes over the years in death cases and in legislative rights. As a result, no one has been executed in NC since 2006, an AMAZING accomplishment. Part of this success is due to their focus on the racial bias endemic to the death penalty in the South. CDPL is an organization that uses its resources well and is worthy of support.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

On my first capital case in 1992 the Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL) in Durham was instrumental in our efforts to defend and save our client. Since 1992 I have worked with, and witnessed CDPL's unrelenting efforts to work for justice for clients charged with and convicted of capital crimes. CDPL was instrumental in seeking justice for clients convicted and sentenced by juries where prosecutors had systematically excluded jurors based on racial motivations. CDPL has worked hard and obtained exoneration of wrongfully-convicted persons. CDPL is there for anyone charged with the most serious crimes in our nation. In my humble opinion, CDPL has done more to enhance the justice system in North Carolina and other states, helping clients to receive the due process and constitutional promises of our Country's founders. They value life, and have saved more lives than can be recounted.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Members of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation’s staff were some of my first death penalty defense mentors after I graduated from law school. I now serve on the organization’s board of directors. I am exceptionally proud of CDPL’s steadfast commitment to providing a zealous defense for people facing the death penalty, its ground-breaking litigation and advocacy to ensure that North Carolina courts confront racial prejudice in capital punishment, and its commitment to racial equity. For a small nonprofit law firm, CDPL is doing really big things to advance the cause of justice.