Mar 19, 2009    #031
Contact: Laura Byerley

Criminal defense attorney speaks about death row, Guantanamo, Katrina and Kansas CityUMKC School of Law hosts Joseph Cohen Lecture and Death Penalty Symposium

Denny LeBoeuf, an attorney with the John Adams Project – a joint effort by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys to assist in the representation of detainees facing capital prosecution at Guantanamo – will speak at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1. The UMKC School of Law is hosting LeBoeuf’s appearance as part of its Joseph Cohen Lecture Series, which will take place at the UMKC School of Law Courtroom, 500 E. 52nd St., Kansas City, Mo. A 5 p.m. reception in the Law School Student Lounge will precede LeBoeuf’s lecture. To RSVP to the reception and lecture, call (816) 235-1644 or email

LeBoeuf will present a lecture on “Death Row, Guantanamo Bay, Hurricane Katrina, Kansas City: Lessons in representing the traditionally underrepresented.” She will discuss how issues of race, ethnicity, poverty and mental health may prevent adequate representation of people facing potentially serious and often life-threatening sanctions. LeBoeuf, who has spent her career representing individuals who fall into this category, will discuss the systemic problems that make adequate representation difficult, present examples of systemic problems and offer suggestions for how lawyers can make a difference in representing the traditionally unrepresented or underrepresented.

The Joseph Cohen Lecture Series honors the memory of Joseph Cohen, a 1925 alumnus of the UMKC School of Law. Throughout his lifetime, Cohen advocated to protect religious liberties and civil rights. The Series celebrates the courage and commitment of a lawyer to the causes of civil rights and individual liberty.

“Ms. LeBoeuf epitomizes the values that Joseph Cohen brought to the practice of law,” said Ellen Suni, dean of the UMKC School of Law. “Whether they end up practicing law in Kansas City or across the world, students and attorneys will learn a lot from her lecture.”

Before serving with the John Adams Project, LeBoeuf served as founding director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana. Her noteworthy cases include the landmark Supreme Court case, Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995), in which she eventually established the innocence of Curtis Kyles and obtained his freedom from Louisiana’s death row.

LeBoeuf has served as president and general counsel of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union and as an ACLU National Board member. From 2006 to 2007, she was chair of the post-Katrina Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Board. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Hunter College and a Juris Doctor degree from Tulane University.

Death Penalty Symposium

A day after giving the Joseph Cohen Lecture, Denny LeBoeuf will present the keynote speech at the UMKC School of Law’s Death Penalty Symposium. “Death Penalty Stories: Lessons in life-saving narratives” – takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 2 at the UMKC School of Law Courtroom, 500 E. 52nd St, Kansas City, Mo. No tickets are required, but RSVPs are appreciated. Call (816) 235-1644 to RSVP. This event offers up to six hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for both Missouri and Kansas, and is free of charge.

To several people, typical death penalty cases may seem indefensible. However, LeBoeuf and other experienced capital defenders will discuss how they tell the story of a client’s life – harnessing themes of injustice, poverty, racism, mental illness and innocence in an attempt to bring just and peaceful resolutions to tragedies that inflame communities.

The typical death penalty case begins with a compelling story of a terrible crime, an innocent victim and a frightening suspect. Capital defense teams must develop a counter-narrative that humanizes the defendant and puts the capital crime in a context in which forgiveness and mercy are possible. More often than not, capital defense teams toil in a hostile environment against highly-skilled and well-funded opponents. However, the modern death penalty era has produced a generation of capital defense experts who are adept at exploring their clients’ life histories and unearthing the stories that reveal their intrinsic humanity and avoid the death penalty – even for acts of alarming violence.

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 four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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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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