Feb. 4, 2023

"The Power to Effect Change": Clinical Professor of Law Sandra Babcock and the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Like many countries, Malawi still applies the death penalty for capital crimes, although the death penalty is no longer mandatory in capital cases and may be abolished entirely in Malawi soon. 

Several years ago, a law professor named Sandra Babcock took an interest in the Malawi penal system after seeing a New York Times article about horrific prison conditions there. Having spent much of her early career representing persons awaiting execution in American prisons, Professor Babcock, then at Northwestern Law School, arranged to bring six of her students to Malawi to see how they might help Malawian prisoners subjected to those conditions, many of whom had no lawyer and were still awaiting trial after years of incarceration. 

That first trip resulted in the release of 12 incarcerated persons, and marked the beginning of a multi-year project Professor Babcock led, first at Northwestern and later at Cornell Law School. Today the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide that Professor Babcock leads continues to assist Malawian prisoners, and has extended its work to Tanzania, with a focus on representing women on death row in that country. 

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Professor Babcock about the public defense and death penalty work she performed before becoming a law professor, and the extraordinary work she and her students have done and continue to do on behalf of Malawians on death row.

You can learn more about Professor Babcock and the work of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide here and here.

You can read about the recent success of the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic in Malawi here.

You can learn more about the Cornell Law School Death Penalty Program here, and find the short video mentioned in the podcast here.

You can find the NY Times photograph that inspired Professor Babcock to begin her work in Malawi here. (May require a NY Times subscription).