Being involved in a court case can often be life-changing: divorces end marriages, contract disputes end business relationships, an award of damages in a personal injury case can make the difference in the quality of life of a person with lifelong debilitating injuries. But the highest stakes are undoubtedly in the arena of capital punishment cases. In those cases, a criminal defendant’s life is actually at stake.
Because of the high stakes in a capital case, the lawyers who represent capital defendants are tasked with one of the most difficult trials of their careers. While an attorney should approach any case he or she handles with the utmost care and professionalism, capital trials are, without exaggeration, a matter of life and death. To make sure that these defendants have the best representation, the Nevada Supreme Court has established rules to ensure that their attorneys meet certain criteria.
In Nevada, attorneys can reach a status called “death-penalty qualified.” Only certain attorneys have the experience to receive this designation and the criteria set out by the Court is not easy to meet.
Nevada Supreme Court Rule 250 provides for a “Pool of Capital Punishment Attorneys” who have been pre-qualified to represent defendants in cases where capital punishment is a possible outcome. Attorneys on this list must provide the following information to the court to be considered for inclusion on the list:
- Specific description of all criminal trials tried within the past three years that went to a jury verdict
- At least one capital punishment case in which the attorney has been either the lead or assisting counsel through the guilt and penalty phases
- The written recommendation of at least one judge who presided over one of the capital punishment cases listed.
By using these criteria, the court can ensure that the attorney representing the defendant has the required background to provide an effective defense as required by law.
Ken McKenna has been approved for inclusion in the group of death penalty qualified attorneys in Nevada. His qualification is an indication of his extensive experience in representing criminal defendants on all levels of criminal behavior, up to and including defendants facing a sentence of capital punishment.