Stephen Kinnard passed away on Sunday, May 27, 2001.
BackgroundSteve Kinnard was a true human rights hero in his fifty-four years of tremendously active life. His passionate interest in securing proper representation for people facing the death penalty began while he successfully practiced law with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Atlanta. In 1985, at the Georgia Bar Association's request, Steve began advocating for proper funding of effective lawyers to represent death row inmates in state and federal post-conviction proceedings. At the same time, he became one of the first members of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project's steering committee. Over the next sixteen years, he became a national leader in efforts to recruit pro bono lawyers for death row inmates, to find excellent lawyers for people facing capital punishment at the trial level, and to secure funding sources for capital punishment resource centers. He freely gave of his time to encourage other states to emulate innovations he had brought about in Georgia. Principal among these innovations was the creation of the Georgia Appellate Practice and Educational Resource Center, which Steve founded and chaired. The Center was the paradigm for many offices that, with the ABA's encouragement, Congress funded. These offices provided post-conviction representation for numerous death row inmates and recruited and mentored pro bono lawyers for many others on death row. After Congress defunded these resource centers in the mid-1990s-based on erroneous assertions that they were spending their time on death penalty abolition activities-Steve played a decisive role in securing state and private funding for the Georgia resource center. Under his leadership, the Georgia center continued its work, albeit in a fiscally constrained manner. In addition, Steve successfully litigated before the Georgia Supreme Court the right of death row inmates who have secured post-conviction relief to be represented at retrial by counsel who, in securing such relief, have become familiar with their cases rather than by new and often less effective counsel. While continuing to play a leading role on behalf of indigent people facing the death penalty, Steve left private practice in 1992, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit appointed him to lead its newly created mediation center. During his tenure with the mediation center, Steve was enormously successful in resolving a wide variety of disputes. As the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities wrote to him in May 2001 (shortly before his death), Steve Kinnard provided "outstanding leadership in a field (the representation of poor people facing execution) largely devoid of leadership." His achievements were recognized by the ABA, which presented Steve its Pro Bono Publico Award; the ACLU, which honored him with its Bill of Rights Award; and the ABA's Death Penalty Representation Project, which named its resource counsel program in his honor. Steve's most enduring legacy will be the efforts we now make to ensure equal protection and due process for society's outcasts. Although none of us can expect to equal Steve's achievements, we can all honor his memory by bringing to fruition the efforts to which he devoted his extraordinary heart and soul.
A member of the Boy Scouts of America, he was an Eagle Scout, a member of the Order of the Arrow and had recently recieved the Silver Beaver Award. He was a veteran of the Indiana National Guard. A 1968 graduate of William Jewel College, Liberty, Mo., he earned his law degree from Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington,in 1972. Survivors include wife Joyce Kohlenberg Kinnard; children Jeremy, Rachel Kinnard; parents Walter and Phyllis Kinnard; sisters Kathy Gustafson.