Scharlette Holdman

RIP: Death penalty defense doyenne Scharlette Holdman,”Mistress of Delay”

The New York Times’ eloquent obituary of Scharlette Holdman, a non-lawyer who was a “force for the defense on Death Row,” featured a few words about Ms. Holdman’s role in Florida death penalty history.

Holdman, who died at age 70 on July 12, “was a revered figure, a nonlawyer who taught her peers how to persuade jurors and prosecutors to spare the lives of men and women convicted of heinous crimes,” Maurice Chammah wrote in the Times piece published Saturday.

After the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, Holdman went to work for the Florida Clearinghouse on Criminal Justice in Tallahassee, “where she tried to find lawyers for convicts as their execution dates approached,” Chammah wrote.

“She was like a medic performing triage at a train wreck,” Chammah quotes from David Von Drehle’s profile of Holdman, included in his book “Among the Lowest of the Dead: The Culture of Death Row. “The first job was to determine who was closest to dying.”

Read more from the Times here.