Two University of Warwick students may be heading to death row if they manage to raise enough funds for their US trip. William Russell and Lisa Kiff, both 2nd year Law students, are hoping to gain valuable work experience as part of an internship. During their time in the US they will assist defence attorneys representing prisoners facing execution. They may even meet prisoners currently awaiting the death sentence on what is known as America’s Death Row.
William and Lisa are very excited about the trip and are looking forward to their eight week internship working in the Oklahoma State Office. They will be asked to perform a variety of tasks but much of the work will be in the form of investigations and they may find themselves interviewing witnesses, gathering facts or in the development of mitigation evidence required for the sentencing phase of the trial. During their time in Oklahoma not only will they gain valuable work experience within the US law system but they may also get the opportunity to help save prisoners from execution.
Both students would like to see the abolition of the death penalty. They believe that apart from the obvious fact of it being wrong to sentence people to death that the system also bears all the injustices associated with being a lower class citizen in America.
William adds "There are all sorts of terrible facts, it's only since 2000 that they've stopped putting people who are mentally ill on death row. I don't think people should be put to death for their actions."
Jon Yorke, a lecturer in Law at Warwick, has been helping William and Lisa secure their place in Oklahoma. Jon was a speaker at Is the Death Penalty About to Execute Itself?, a forum organised by the Law School. It was because of Jon that William and Lisa became interested in doing an internship in the US. He told the students about Amicus, a registered UK charity that arranges for interns to help out US attorneys on death row appeal cases. It was also through Amicus that Jon gained his first experience of working with death row prisoners. "The first time I went to death row is a time I will never forget". Jon feels that both students will never forget this experience and it will help them to be more effective as lawyers.
However, before flying off to Oklahoma both students have to raise the £2,500 needed to make the trip possible and they need to raise the money by July. Therefore, they need to find groups who are willing to help raise a lot of money in a short space of time.
William has already succeeded in raising £900, some of which he raised through sponsorship of a half marathon he recently completed. He now has to raise the remaining £1,600. William has already given interviews to his home town paper the Flintshire Chronicle and to the BBC appealing for sponsorship.
Lisa is currently kick-starting her fund-raising mission and is hoping that via the local media of her home town of Luton she can raise some funds from local businesses. Lisa said "I hope I am able to raise the funds by July otherwise I'll be bitterly disappointed on missing out on this a once in a life time opportunity".
If you would like to sponsor William and Lisa or know of an organisation that can assist towards the cost of their trip please contact them personally.
Lisa can be contacted on 07986 614180 or by email L.R.Kiff@warwick.ac.uk
William can be contacted on 07951 744299 or by email W.A.E.Russell@warwick.ac.uk