A young lawyer who dreams of abolishing the death penalty has secured a scholarship in the US – but needs strangers’ help to get her there.
Samantha Chammings, who has been offered a rare chance to study a legal masters at the University of Texas, says she was inspired to fight against miscarriages of justice by her teachers at Walton High School in Walnut Tree.
But after years of studying, the now fully-qualified criminal paralegal could fall at the last hurdle if she can’t raise £18,000 by next August.
“I am in a lot of debt from my studies as it is, but this is such an incredible opportunity I can’t miss out on.
“I will have to take out loans if I can’t find anyone who will help.”
It was during a recent internship when Samantha spent time working with attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia, that she became determined to fight to defend prisoners facing the death penalty.
If the 24-year-old can raise the cash in time, the human rights course will make that a reality.
She said: “Working with inspirational attorneys in Georgia was a life-changing experience.
“Many of my clients had committed heinous crimes. Some of them, however, were merely accused of being part of a crime, usually an armed robbery, where somebody ended up getting shot.
“These clients hadn’t killed anyone. They hadn’t even ever had the intention of hurting anybody, but they are now each facing possible execution.”
The year-long course due to start next month will make Samantha eligible to take a Texas bar exam, which means it will be possible for her to become a capital defence attorney like her mentors in Georgia.
Samantha added: “It is indisputable that prisoners end up on death row – not because they committed the worst type of crime – but because of their quality of legal representation, race or wealth.
“To make matters worse, current shortages of drugs used in lethal injections have meant that states are experimenting with new and untested cocktails of drugs. Disastrous and botched executions have become a worrying trend.
“This has to end, but I need help to make that a reality.”
To donate visit www.indiegogo.com and search ‘fund me to fight the death penalty’