Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Meaningful Access for Indigents on Death Row: Giarratano v. Murray and the Right to Counsel in Post conviction Proceedings


In 1932 the United States Supreme Court held that the states must provide free legal counsel to indigent defendants in capital cases.' Since then the Court has continued to define the scope of an indigent death row defendant's right to counsel at various critical stages of the defendant's trial and appeal. Following a direct appeal to the state court of appeals and state supreme court, an inmate on death row may seek a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court. A prisoner is not entitled to state appointed counsel for that action ...

This Recent Development focuses on whether the Court's decision in Giarratano is consistent with prior decisions concerning the right of meaningful access and the effect of the decision on the imposition of the death penalty.

Part II examines the Supreme Court's development of a prisoner's right of access and the application of that right in various cases involving the post-conviction claims of capital defendants.Part III examines recent cases that have defined further the scope of the right of access, focusing on Giarratano. Part IV compares the Court's holding in Giarratano with its previous holdings in right of access cases. Part V concludes that appointed counsel for capital defendants in post-conviction proceedings is not constitutionally mandated,but the lack of such counsel is illustrative of the inherently flawed capital punishment system in use today.