The Champion

December 2011 , Page 44 

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‘So What?’: Using Reverse Investigation To Articulate Prejudice and Win Post-Conviction Claims

By Ty Alper

It can be daunting for an attorney handling her first post-conviction capital case to know where to start. When I began working as a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, I was given a desk, a file cabinet, and a caseload of post-conviction capital cases. Affixed by yellowing Scotch tape to the file cabinet was a small piece of paper on which someone had typed (with a typewriter) the following:

The Four Post-Conviction Questions 

  1. What was the most damaging evidence? 
  2. Who were the most damaging witnesses? 
  3. Why was my client convicted? 
  4. Why was my client sentenced to death? 

Because it was some of the best advice I’ve ever received as a post-conviction attorney, I tried over the years, to no avail, to find out who had taped those questions to the file cabinet. This article is an attempt to pass along, and flesh out, the wisdom contained in those four questions.

At first blush, it seems obvious that, upon agreeing to represent a client in post-conviction, one

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