Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Jason will help people avoid the death penalty

A young Kilcullen man is spending this summer in the US in an unusual way, helping to provide legal services to poor people facing the death penalty, writes Brian Byrne.

Jason Conroy will be doing a volunteer internship with the Gulf Region Advocacy Center (Grace Law) charity in Houston, Texas, a non-profit law office created in 2002. The charity provides high quality defence services to indigent capital defendants facing the possibility of the death penalty in some of the most lethal jurisdictions in the American south.

Grace Law has a particular focus on Texas, the death penalty capital of the US.

Jason, son of Petra Conroy, is a Law student in UCD, and his work with Grace Law will include assisting lawyers with research and witness location, and participating in the preparation of life histories of clients for the purpose of convincing prosecutors not to seek the death penalty. He will also also have the opportunity to visit clients in jails or prisons and help prepare for and watch court proceedings.

The internship comes with accommodation and a small food stipend, but any funds that Jason can bring himself will mean less pressure on the resources available to the Center, which depends heavily upon the work of volunteers and interns to provide what are life-saving services. More than 200 students and graduates from American and other English- or Spanish-speaking countries around the world have taken part in similar internships with Grace Law over the last 15 years.

"These young people, in turn, receive valuable life experience and professional training working alongside capital defence attorneys and investigators in the defence of real people facing the possibility of the death penalty," says GRACE executive director Danalynn Recer.

Jason was educated in St Joseph's NS and CPC and volunteered with a house building project in Trinidad at the end of 5th Year in the summer of 2015. He was also one of the many young people from Kilcullen who attended World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.

He was an altar server in Kilcullen from age of nine until 18, along with other local young people who have been servers for many years. He still helps out at Mass at weekends.

A Coffee Morning will be held in the Parish Centre on Sunday next after Mass, to raise some funds to help with Jason's expenses during his work with an organisation which has built a record of many successes on behalf of its client prisoners.

He leaves for Texas on 14 June.