Aug 4, 2006    #126
Contact: Nick Barron

Law school professor wins Ross Essay ContestSean O’Brien becomes second UMKC law professor to win in two years</i

For the second time in as many years a University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law professor has been named the winner of the American Bar Association Journal’s Ross Essay Contest.

Sean O’Brien won for his essay titled “Finding Redemption,” which retraces a final conversation the professor had with Doyle Williams, a death row inmate facing the final hours of his life. O’Brien, who teaches criminal law, has represented countless death row inmates across the country since working his first death penalty case in 1983. O’Brien hopes his essay will help humanize death row inmates.

“It’s way too easy to judge people and there’s a human tendency to consider yourself superior to others,” O’Brien said. “We should resist that as lawyers.”

Williams was executed by lethal injection on April 10, 1996. After being convicted in 1981 for murdering a potential witness against him in a burglary case, Williams worked to help fellow death row inmates find adequate legal representation. He is credited with helping numerous death row inmates, including Joe Amrine, a man O’Brien represented. Amrine, convicted of murdering a fellow inmate in 1985, walked away from death row in 2003 thanks in large part to the initial investment Williams made in Amrine’s case.

O’Brien first met Williams in 1990 when he became director of the now defunct Missouri Capital Punishment Resource Center and, while not serving as his attorney, O’Brien had a close working relationship with Williams. In a self-deprecating tone, the essay brings to life the human side of one of this nation’s most contested issues.

O’Brien’s “Redemption” is the second Ross Essay Contest winner at UMKC in as many years. Barbara Glesner-Fines’, a family law professor, essay “Clients as Teachers” won last year.

The Ross Essay Contest is supported by a trust established more than 70 years ago by the late Judge Erskine M. Ross of Los Angeles. The prize was first awarded in 1934. The contest is administered by the ABA Journal, and the winner is chosen by the ABA Journal Board of Editors. The 2006 contest drew 222 entries submitted by ABA members who subscribe to the Journal’s eReport, which is delivered weekly by e-mail. This year’s essay topic was: Your life in the law. Tell us how practicing law has changed you as a person—for better or worse.

The ABA Journal is the flagship publication of the American Bar Association. With a circulation of nearly 400,000, the Journal is the largest legal periodical in the world. The weekly eReport is sent to some 247,000 subscribers.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban affairs.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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