Law student volunteers with Missouri Capital Sentencing Project
Friday, 30 September 2016
Chloë Arnold, a second-year Law student at Oxford Brookes, has returned from St. Louis, Missouri after spending five weeks with the Missouri Capital Sentencing Project run by Phillips Black.
The organisation aims to support defendants on death row who have been discriminated against either due to race, social standing or mental health.
The project’s research is concerned with intentional homicide cases from 1976 to 2010. Chloë was tasked with finding similarities within the cases that supported the theory that the way Missouri courts treated their homicide cases was perhaps unjust and unfair. Chloë explained the gap between 2010 and the current year: “Homicide cases, particularly capital cases, can draw out lengthy appeal processes, and so any case after 2010 may still be considered 'active'. Therefore, it would not be sensible to include it in our study as the data we draw from it could change.”
As well as working at the St. Louis county courthouse, Chloë took an active role in assigning the boxes of case notes to a database and coding the necessary files.
Speaking about the experience Chloë said: “It’s opened my eyes to working pro bono. I’ve seen that the people most in need are the people who don’t have money and won’t be able to pay you for your services. I now definitely want to pursue a career in criminal law.”
Experiencing the American justice system first hand, Chloë stated: “I think it could be said that there are a lot of people in positions of power in America who let their personal biases come into play. We have evidence that black defendants are treated more harshly across the board by judges and occasionally by their assigned public defenders.”
Marc Howe, Principal Lecturer in Law, expressed his appreciation for Chloë’s work: "The School of Law has worked with the Amicus Death Penalty Charity for a number of years, and we are very proud of the valuable work that Chloë has carried out this summer with the Missouri Capital Sentencing Project."
Aside from a grant by Santander through the student project grant, Chloë funded the entire trip herself which was organised by the Amicus ALJ, a Death Penalty Charity. Speaking about her experience and the Law course at Brookes in general, Chloë said: “I would personally recommend other Law students to do similar things through Amicus – they don’t have to go to the States to get involved, casework can easily be done from the UK. The Brookes Law course is wonderful, I enjoy the seminars and the lectures, and I love discussing the subject at hand."
Find out more about the Amicus Death Penalty Charity.