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  • Bio
  • Credentials

Richard S. Jaffe


Through his distinguished career, Mr. Jaffe has successfully defended hundreds of clients facing murder charges, including over 60 where the death penalty would have been imposed, and professionals of all types, including lawyers, pharmacists, doctors, accountants, Mayors, etc. He is widely recognized as one of the top experts on criminal law in the United States and is frequently called upon by national media outlets for his insight on complex issues related to the death penalty and other areas of criminal law. Author of Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned, 1st and 2nd editions, Richard Jaffe is considered fearless and formidable by opposing counsel.

Mr. Jaffe is most well-known for his role in the exoneration of four Alabama death row inmates, as well as for representing Eric Robert Rudolph, who is more commonly known as the Olympic Park Bomber. No client of Mr. Jaffe is currently on death row, and none have been executed. Few attorneys can make such claims, particularly considering the sheer number of cases Mr. Jaffe has handled.

When it comes to trial skill and an ability to sway jurors’ favor, Mr. Jaffe believes in taking a subtle approach by presenting his clients’ cases in such a manner as to let jurors form their own opinions about witness testimony, which leads to more certainty in their beliefs and, therefore, more arguments to his clients’ advantage during deliberation.

Mr. Jaffe is currently a Senior Partner at Jaffe, Hanle, Whisonant & Knight, P.C. in Birmingham, Alabama. He brings his over 40 years of legal experience to the firm’s white-collar crime and criminal litigation practice in State and Federal Court.

Education & Early Career

Mr. Jaffe is an Alabama native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama and his Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1976. He started his legal career as a prosecutor, hired as an Assistant Attorney General in the criminal appellate division. He then served as Deputy District Attorney in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, before going into private practice.

    • Superlawyers- Richard Jaffe

    • 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
    • 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
    • American College of Trial Lawyers Member


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

    Honors & Awards

    • Recognized in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America® for high caliber work in Criminal Defense: General Practice and Criminal Defense: White-Collar
    • 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 - Criminal Defense: General Practice and White Collar (2007-2014)
    • Super Lawyers® (2008-2012)
    • Best Lawyers of America "Lawyer of The Year" for Criminal Defense: General Practice in Birmingham (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 Criminal Defense: White Collar in Birmingham (2013)
    • Top 10 Super Lawyers in Alabama (2014)
    • Top 50 Super Lawyer in Alabama (2019)
    • Best Lawyers of America – “Lawyer of the Year” for Criminal Defense: General Practice in Birmingham (2020)
    • Best Lawyers of America – “Lawyer of the Year” for Criminal Defense: General Practice and White Collar in Birmingham (2021)
    • Top 50: 2021 Birmingham Super Lawyers

    Published Works (Selected)

    • Quest For Justice; Defending the Damned, Quest For Justice; Defending the Damned,, 2012
    • 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

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