Capital Litigation Unit
The Capital Litigation Unit is a specialized unit within the Appellate Division where attorneys are assigned to all pending homicides in Fulton County where a “Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty” has been filed against a defendant facing murder charges. With the appropriate oversight and supervision by the Head of the Capital Litigation Unit, ADA Sheila Gallow, the Unit works closely with the Violent Offenders Division in order to closely monitor each pending death penalty case as it progresses from indictment through jury selection, and finally to trial. From the filing of the notice of intent to seek the death penalty through the trial, the Capital Litigation Unit, along with the assigned major case attorney, files numerous requests, motions, and trial court briefs to ensure the efficient, proper, and timely progression of the death penalty case, in compliance with all relevant rules, procedures, and statutes governing death penalty trials in this State. The Unit further ensures that each of a defendant’s numerous, and often complex, motions are answered with a filed response, generally in opposition, and where applicable.
The Unit’s goal is to ensure that a defendant facing the death penalty in Fulton County receives a fair trial, and that media involvement does not prejudice their ability to receive a fair trial given the high profile nature of these cases, and media interest. To that end, the unit’s expertise in dealing with Georgia’s “Unified Appeal Procedure,” designed specifically for capital cases in the State of Georgia, ensures that each case is strictly monitored to ensure strict compliance with the specific procedures outlined in the “UAP” for any defendant facing a potential death sentence in Fulton County. The Unit is responsible for litigating highly complex defense filed motions, including those challenging the composition of Fulton County Juries under the Supreme Court’s “Jury Composition Rule,” as it relates to grand juries, or traverse/petite juries. Based upon the close supervision, strict compliance with all relevant procedural rules, the experienced attorneys serving within the Capital Litigation unit and the Major Case Division ensure that all defendants expecting a capital trial in Fulton County are afforded constitutionally adequate due process, and a fair trial under the laws in this State, as well as the Georgia and United States Constitutions.
If a defendant is convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his or her peers, the Capital Litigation Unit assumes primary responsibility for the death penalty case at the motion for new trial stage, and on direct appeal in the Georgia Supreme Court. Post-conviction litigation in these cases is procedurally complex, intensive, and may last several years, during which the unit continually opposes defense attacks on both the conviction itself, and the resulting death sentence. Finally, once the death penalty appeal reaches the Supreme Court, it is the unit’s responsibility to defend and argue the case before the Justices presiding over the case in the Georgia Supreme Court.