Laura Ford

Laura Ford

Birmingham Law School
Postgraduate Teaching Associate

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Title of thesis: Exempting the severely mentally ill from the death penalty in the United States of America

Supervisors: Dr Bharat Malkani and Professor Jean V. McHale


  • LLB Law (University of Leicester)
  • LLM Human Rights Law (University of Leicester)
  • Professional Diploma in Legal Practice (Nottingham Law School)


I am a qualified solicitor and practiced for three years in the Commercial Litigation team of a large international law firm prior to joining the university as a Postgraduate Teaching Associate and PhD candidate in September 2015. Before qualification I completed my two year training contract in Nottingham and also worked as an intern in London and as a paralegal in Dubai.

Whilst in practice, I was involved with the firm’s pro bono scheme working with Amicus, a charity that provides assistance to capital defendants in the United States of America. This work, and in particular writing two articles for the Amicus newsletter, sparked my passion for researching the death penalty in America and, specifically, issues relating to the treatment of mentally ill and intellectually disabled defendants in capital cases. 


  • Law of Torts

Doctoral research

PhD title
Exempting the severely mentally ill from the death penalty in the United States of America
Professor Jean V. McHale
Law PhD / PhD by Distance Learning / MPhil / MJur


The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the execution of juveniles, the intellectually disabled and the insane is in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, it is not unconstitutional to execute severely mentally ill defendants. My thesis aims firstly to understand why the severely mentally ill are executed in the United States, which involves an examination of the treatment of the severely mentally ill in the criminal justice system, and secondly to argue that the severely mentally ill should also be exempt from execution, as an important next step in the Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment analysis.

Other activities

Co-organiser of the Midlands Postgraduate Research Conference in Law, 2016, University of Birmingham


Media articles

  • Amicus newsletter, “The insanity of the death penalty”, February 2013
  • Amicus newsletter, “Too ill to die”, May 2013

Conference paper

  • “The insanity of the death penalty: sentencing the mentally ill and intellectually disabled to death in the United States Supreme Court”, Midlands Postgraduate Research Conference in Law 2016, University of Birmingham