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Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Edward Ungvarsky ’93 Receives Award from Washington & Lee School of Law

Edward J. UngvarskyEdward J. Ungvarsky ’93 received the prestigious Bill Geimer Award from the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse of Washington & Lee School of Law on November 16, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia. Ed received this award for his almost 10 years of service and successful outcomes as a dedicated capital defender in Virginia. In 2009, Ed was asked to take over the Northern Virginia Capital Defender Office, located in Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia, to lead an office representing persons facing the possibility of the death penalty in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia at the trial-level and direct appeal stages. Ed and his team successfully avoided the death penalty for all 18 of their clients. While most of Ed’s success was at the trial level, Ed's office vacated on direct appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia the death sentence of a client who had been represented by different counsel at his trial; received from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit federal habeas corpus relief and a new sentencing trial for a client wrongfully sentenced to death when a trial judge refused to allow jurors to hear that their client would not be a risk of violence if incarcerated in prison; and assisted an executive clemency appeal to Governor Terry McAuliffe. When Ed resigned from the Capital Defender Office to start his own private practice law firm in February 2018, Ed continued his representation of an active-duty U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who stood accused of capital murder for killing his wife and a police officer in the same incident. Ed’s string of capital defense success was capped by the October 2018 unanimous life sentence verdict at trial for Ed’s client.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has been one of the most active state in obtaining death sentences in murder cases. Virginia has executed 111 people since 1976. Prince William County has served as the Death Belt for Virginia. Having sought the death penalty approximately 30 times over his 50-year career, the Prince William County prosecutor had never before failed to obtain a death sentence — until Ed’s recent case.

Ed has mentored Yale students and alumni/ae throughout his career. For example, Arianna Zoghi ’21 volunteered on this case as an undergraduate intern prior to starting at the Law School.

Ed is a 1993 graduate of the Yale Law School. He worked as a public defender for 25 years — during which time he oversaw the Trial Division of the premier DC Public Defender Service and directed the Northern Virginia Capital Defender Office in Arlington and Fairfax, Virginia. Ed is one of the leading capital defense attorneys in the country and is a nationally respected criminal defense attorney with an expertise in DNA and other forensic science evidence. Ed has taught capital punishment law and mitigation as adjunct faculty at Marymount University (Arlington, Virginia) and Arizona State School of Law (Tempe, Arizona), serves as an Instructor in trial advocacy at Harvard Law School, teaches in the clinical program of DC Law Students in Court, and travels nationwide and internationally to train on forensic science, criminal trial practice, and capital punishment law. Ed was named as one of the Best Lawyers in Northern Virginia by Northern Virginia Magazine in December 2018, and was the recipient of the 2014 Kutak-Dodds Prize from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association “awarded to attorneys that have significantly contributed to the human dignity and quality of life of individuals unable to afford legal representation.” Ed opened his own white collar and criminal defense law firm law firm based in Alexandria, Virginia in February 2018, where, in addition to a national federal practice, he focuses on white collar and criminal and capital defense cases in state and federal courts in Virginia and Washington, D.C.