Appellate Practice

Longtime Client Died in His Prison Cell, But Lawyer Still Wants Top Calif. Court to Rule on Appeal


For nearly 20 years, Scott F. Kauffman has been representing Dennis Lawley in an appeal of his 1989 first-degree murder conviction.

Lawley, who was found guilty of arranging a contract hit on a convicted felon, insisted he was innocent of the crime and the admitted triggerman says it was a prison gang who ordered the kill. In March, Lawley was found dead in his San Quentin prison cell at age 68, after methamphetamine use triggered heart failure. However, Kauffman is fighting on with the appeal he filed in 2008, urging the California Supreme Court to decide it posthumously, reports the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.).

“Mr. Lawley is dead, but his case should not be buried with him,” Kauffman told the court, contending that it is important for “the state of California to acknowledge there was a giant miscarriage of justice.”

Written arguments in the appeal were completed early in 2009.

CDCR Today and the San Diego Union-Tribune provide further details about Lawley’s conviction in news reports on his death.

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