Posted: January 2nd, 2017 | By: Tonya Maxwell
Professor Mark Rabil, director of the Innocence and Justice Program, is featured in the following story, “For Asheville attorney, a life’s work fighting the death penalty,” about Adjunct Professor Kimberly C. Stevens (JD ’92), written by Tonya Maxwell of the Asheville Citizen-Times, which was also published in USA Today on Jan. 2, 2017. An excerpt of the original story follows:
CHARLESTON, S.C. — The attorney leans to her left, drawing the young man beside her out of his long stare, one that fixates on the wide table before him or some unknown spot straight ahead.
The two share a whispered conversation, and when they are finished, he returns to his gaze, never acknowledging the judge in front of him or the spectators behind, witnesses to an accounting of his terrible crimes against men and women in prayer.
The interaction in a Charleston courthouse, though small and inconspicuous, speaks to the rapport between the defendant and attorney Kimberly C. Stevens. In a career spanning more than two decades as a capital defender, she has represented defendants accused and convicted of a host of high-profile crimes, some that have rattled small towns or large cities or entire states.
In her defense of clients, Stevens brings a commitment to unearthing medical records and a personal history that might explain why they committed crimes, said Mark Rabil, a law professor and director of the Innocence and Justice Clinic at Wake Forest.
“She’s somebody who works endlessly to find the good in people. In the mitigation phase you look into someone’s background and talk to all of their family, their friends, get all of their records to find out, ‘What is it that created this person?’” said Rabil, who has partnered with Stevens in about a half-dozen capital cases, each ending with a plea deal for life.
“If anybody can help us find out why this horrible situation occurred in Charleston, Kim’s perfectly suited to that and she’s very, very sensitive and caring about the victims of the crime and the victim’s families.”
Rabil noted also that she is conscientious of the charged and difficult issues where race is a factor, typically involving a black defendant and a white victim.