Richard S. Jaffe

Senior Partner

Richard S. Jaffe is the Senior Partner of the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Jaffe, Hanle, Whisonant & Knight, P.C. The firm concentrates in the area of criminal defense and personal injury, with Mr. Jaffe specializing in the areas of white collar criminal defense and criminal litigation in the federal and state courts. Mr. Jaffe has been board certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Criminal Trial Specialist since January 31, 1984. (Copyright 2006 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, S.C.). Mr. Jaffe began his career as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama, then served as a Deputy District Attorney, before entering the private practice of law in 1978.


Mr. Jaffe has handled over sixty capital cases, including 5 federal death penalty cases. His acquittal rate is among the highest in the country. He is the only attorney in the nation who has successfully defended three death row inmates at new trials after they had previously been sentenced to death. He and his firm have participated in numerous other acquittals of individuals facing serious punishment, both at trial and on appeal. In addition, Mr. Jaffe has successfully represented many individuals and corporations facing significant sentences for violations of Federal Criminal Offenses. From 2000 until 2008 Mr. Jaffe served as co-counsel as the personal lawyer of Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid.

Mr. Jaffe is licensed to practice law in New York, Georgia, D.C. and Alabama. In 1994, the Alabama Bar Association awarded him the prestigious Clarence Darrow Award for the contributions he has made in defending indigent people charged with criminal offenses. In 2002 The Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (ACDLA) presented Mr. Jaffe The Roderick Beddow Award, it’s most prestigious award - "in recognition of a lifetime achievement in the practice of criminal law." Mr. Jaffe is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL).

He taught "Evidence" at the minority Miles Law School in Birmingham, Alabama for eight years. He has published many articles and papers in connection with the training of attorneys. His February 2001 article in the Champion magazine was repeatedly cited in the Cornell Law Journal in a definitive study on jury selection in capital cases. Mr. Jaffe is frequently called upon to comment on death penalty issues and other areas of criminal law by television, radio and print media. He has been the subject of numerous stories reporting his successes in the death penalty area. One recent television story led with the byline, "Birmingham's Matlock." He is the author of “Quest for Justice; Defending the Damned.”

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Bar Admissions

  • Georgia, 1984
  • District of Columbia, 1983
  • New York, 1982
  • Alabama, 1976

Published Works (Selected)

  • Quest For Justice; Defending the Damned, Quest For Justice; Defending the Damned,, 2009
  • Defending DUI Vehicular Homicide Cases, Inside the Minds; “Proven Strategies for Complex DUI Vehicular Homicide Cases” Chapter Written by Richard Jaffe, Aspatore, 2011
  • The Colorado Method of Jury Selection, NACDL, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2009
  • Opening Statements, Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers, Pensacola Florida, 2009
  • Winning Trial Themes from Voire Dire Through Jury Instructions, Arkansas Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2009
  • Jury Selection in Death Penalty Cases, Making the Case for Life, NACDL and Southern Center for Human Rights, 2008
  • Brainstorming and Coordinating the Themes and Theories for Life, Capital Defense - The Punishment Phase, The Center for American and International Law, Piano, Texas, 2007
  • Using Experts - Sinking or Swimming, NACDL, Key West, Florida, 2007
  • Twelve Principals of Capital Litigation, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2007
  • Ten Principals for Individual or Small Group Panel Individualized Voir Dire on Death Penalty, Capital Defense Training, Center for American and International Law, Piano, Texas, 2006
  • Attacking the State's Aggravation Case: Cross Examining The State's Aggravation Witnesses, Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College, De Paul University College of Law, 2006
  • Obtaining The Necessary Funds to Save a Life - Primer, The Brian R. Shechmeister Death Penalty College, Santa Clara University School of Law, 2006
  • Power Themes to Winning, Tennessee Trial College, 2006
  • Themes of Life - Helping The Jury Choose Life by Telling the Clients Story, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ), 2004
  • The Insanity Defense and Diminished Capacity, The Champion (NACDL) 1986, The Champion, Trial Magazine (AAJ), 1995
  • Ten Principles for Individual Voir Dire in Death Penalty Cases, The Champion, NACDL, 2001

Representative Cases (Selected)

  • Former Lead Counsel, USA v. Eric Rudolph
  • USA v. Price
  • USA v. Kelley
  • USA v. Holley
  • State of Alabama v. Drinkard
  • State of Alabama v. Padgett
  • State of Alabama v. Cochran
  • State of Alabama v. Ford
  • State of Alabama v. Gratton
  • State of Alabama v. Spradley
  • State of Alabama v. Watson
  • USA v. Merriweather
  • USA v. Gilbert
  • USA v. Bolling
  • USA v. Robinson
  • Co-Counsel, Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid (2008)

Classes/Seminars (Selected)

  • Former Faculty Member, Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College
  • Former Faculty Member, Santa Clara Death Penalty College
  • Former Faculty Member, Miles Law School
  • Lectures at seminars and conferences throughout the United States


  • The University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama - 1976
  • Honors: Honors Finalist Moot Court Competition
  • Honors: National Moot Court Team


  • Jaffe, Hanle, Whisonant & Knight- current
  • Jaffe, Burton & Digiorgio, Senior Partner, 1980 - 1993
  • Walker, Jaffe & Burton, PC, 1979 - 1980
  • Richard S. Jaffe, PC, 1978 - 1979
  • Deputy District Attorney of Tuscaloosa County, 1977 - 1978
  • State of Alabama, Assistant Attorney General, 1976 - 1977

Honors & Awards

Mr. Jaffe is past president of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the founder of the Greater Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association. Best Lawyers of America named Mr. Jaffe “Lawyer of the year” in non-white-collar criminal defense in Birmingham for 2010 and 2015 and “Lawyer of the year” in white-collar criminal defense for Birmingham for 2013 and 2020. In 2014 Super Lawyers listed him among the top 10 Super Lawyers in Alabama. .

He is a sought-after speaker to legal organizations and trains lawyers on trial strategies and communication skills throughout the United Sates. In 2015 Best Lawyers of America lists him in both white-collar and non-white collar criminal defense. He served four termsterms as a Board Director for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

  • AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, 1986 - Present
  • ACDLA Roderick Beddow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Criminal Defense, 2001
  • Alabama Bar Association Clarence Darrow Award for Contributions to Indigent Defense, 1996
  • ACDLA President Award, 2007 - 2010
  • Best Lawyers of America - White Collar and Non-White Collar, Criminal Defense, 2007 - 2014
  • Super Lawyers®, 2008 - 2012
  • Best Lawyers of America "Lawyer of The Year" (Birmingham) Non-White Collar, 2010
  • Birmingham Magazine’s Top Birmingham Lawyers, 2008 - 2013
  • Super Lawyers® - Top 50 Lawyers in Alabama, 2013
  • Best Lawyers of America – “Lawyer of the Year” for White Collar in Birmingham, 2013
  • Best Lawyers of America – “Lawyer of the Year” for Criminal Defense: General Practice in Birmingham, 2020

National Trial Laywers SuperLawyers Avvo 10.0 Best Lawyers

Professional Associations

  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Member, 2013 - Present
  • National Association Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Member, 1981 - Present
  • Supreme Court of Alabama Warrant and Indictment Committee, 2007
  • NACDL, Past member of Board of Directors, 4 terms
  • NACDL, Executive Committee, 2009
  • NACDL, Vice-Chair, Death Penalty Committee, 2004 - 2008
  • NACDL, Co-Chair, Death Penalty Committee, 2010
  • Alabama Bar Association, Chair, Criminal Justice Committee, 2005
  • Jefferson County, Chairman, Criminal Justice Committee, 2001 - 2005
  • Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers (ACDLA), Member, 1980 - Present
  • Supreme Court of Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Member, 1994 - 2006
  • ACDLA, President, 1991 - 1992
  • Greater Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (GBCDLA), President, 1995, 2016
  • Greater Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Founder, 1992
  • American Association for Justice (AAJ), Member, 1981 - 1994
  • Notice of Order - 01-CC-1983-003916.00

    The Kinder case is quite unique. It was my first DP trial in over 32 years. The jury returned death 10-2, but Judge Hard (in a very, very rare order) overrode it to life without parole. After the US Supreme Court in Miller held it unconstitutional to automatically sentence a Juvenile to LWOP, I teamed up with Don Collee and we had a miller hearing in October of 2016. Today Judge Pulliam ordered Richard Kinder's sentence to be life with the possibility of parole. Because he has served over 30 years, he is now eligible for Parole.

  • R.T. v. State

    Lawyer charged with assault at former girlfriend's home.

  • A. J. v. State

    Client charged with rape of girlfriend. Client claimed consent. “Shades of Gray defense.” Client claimed he was acting out due to complainant’s obsession with the book. Case reduced to assault 1- probation with 9 months to serve.

  • J.C. v. State

    Client charged with sexual assault of a minor who was sleeping over at hii home. Charges dismissed.

  • J.V. v. State

    Client charged with multiple counts of sodomy and rape of minors from over 35 years ago. All charges dismissed due to violation of defendant’s preindictment speedy trial claims.

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