2010 DON SCHUMACHER LIFESAVER AWARD
EXCELLENCE IN DEATH PENALTY LITIGATION
This year’s award goes to David Doughten of Cleveland.
David has been practicing criminal law in Cleveland since 1981- originally as a public defender. He has been in private practice since 1987.
David Doughten first appeared at a death penalty seminar in 1982 when he was working at the Cuyahoga County Public Defenders Office. He worked on the Leonard Jenkins appeal, one of the first two death penalty appeals under the 1981 law. The other was Donald Maurer. Both were argued on Halloween of 1984 and decided by the end of the year. Both had terrible results and became the template for a lot of very bad caselaw from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Since that time, however, David has worked successfully on capital trials, capital appeals, capital post-conviction cases, and capital habeas cases as well as clemency and has unfortunately attended a couple of his client’s executions.
David is a frequent speaker at criminal defense training seminars. The topics range from jury selection at trial, motions practice, appellate updates, and habeas training. He has spoken frequently at the OACDL death penalty seminar as well as the state bar seminar.
He has become a sought after litigator by many judges in Northern Ohio – for his trial abilities and his ability to resolve terrible cases and for handling difficult clients.
Most recently he was the trial attorney in Neil Simpson in Lorain County – the classic “difficult client” that David spoke about at this seminar. Simpson alienated his family so that they would not testify at mitigation and when approaching the bench to make an unsworn statement, ran over to the jury box and spit on them and yelled at them for finding him guilty. Despite that, Doughten was able to convince the jury to return a life verdict. Simpson nevertheless asked to be crucified or stoned to death at sentencing. The judge declined. He has been described as creative and persistent and able to resolve the big cases when it is appropriate and try the big cases when that is appropriate.
In introducing David at the seminar, Jerry Simmons, told the story of how a close friend of his found herself in serious legal difficulties. Because of their closeness, Jerry did not feel he could represent her. He asked David Doughten to take on the representation. As he noted there is not higher tribute that a defense lawyer can give to another defense lawyer than to ask him to represent a close friend facing serious criminal charges.
Among his many legal accomplishments, David Doughten has successfully tried Susan Gribben in Tuscarawas County, gaining an acquittal by jury of killing her four children, 1996. He successfully negotiated a plea for Thomas Lee Dillon, serial killer (hunter in woods) plea to life, Noble County, 1994. He also tried to a life verdict the case of Thomas Galan, the first indicted federal death penalty case in Northern District of Ohio. He has had numerous other successes in Cuyahoga County and across northern Ohio. His appellate, post-conviction, and habeas successes have included getting relief for Donna Roberts, Fred Dickerson, Shawn Williams, Dorion Hill, Kenneth Green, Carrol Dean Pless, Tyson Dixon, and Sterling Barnes (the only capital defendant to get post-conviction relief since 1981).
David Doughten has made significant contributions to capital defense and the training of capital defense attorneys for the last twenty-five years. He is deserving of the Don Schumacher Lifesaver Award for 2010.