EJI Wins New Trial for Death Row Prisoner Thomas Lane


The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on February 5, 2010, reversed the capital murder conviction and death sentence imposed on Thomas Lane because he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Prior to trial, the trial court removed Mr. Lane’s lawyer because the State wanted to call the lawyer as a witness.

EJI argued on appeal that Mr. Lane’s attorney was not a necessary witness and the trial court’s unjustified removal of the lawyer violated Mr. Lane’s Sixth Amendment right to continued representation by his counsel of choice. EJI argued that this Sixth Amendment violation is the type of serious structural error that automatically requires reversal.

The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, finding that the trial court erred in removing Mr. Lane’s chosen counsel, and that error “seriously affected the fairness and integrity of the judicial proceedings.”

Because Mr. Lane was wrongly denied his right to counsel of choice under the Sixth Amendment, the appeals court reversed his convictions and his sentence of death and ordered a new trial in the case.