THEY are cases that would test the nerves of the most seasoned advocate and where the outcome is a matter of life and death.
Scots lawyer Lindsay Docherty, 26, is to get first-hand experience working with death row inmates after being accepted as a volunteer with the anti-capital punishment charity Reprieve in the US.
Ms Docherty, a solicitor at Frank Irvine Solicitors in Glasgow, will fly out to New Orleans this month and give up her time to help at the charity's Louisiana Capital Assistance Centre office.
She will help carry out legal research and provide assistance to lawyers working on death row.
She said that she was inspired to get involved after attending a seminar at which Reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith was speaking about the charity's work representing prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Louisiana and promoting the rule of law and the right to a fair trial around the world.
Ms Docherty, a Glasgow University graduate, said: "I have always had a real interest in criminology, criminal law and justice and medical ethics and after meeting Clive Stafford Smith I decided this was something I really wanted to do.
"I have a great interest in social justice and human rights, and this brings all of that together. I'm going to somewhere where I don't know anyone, and I'm apprehensive, but I'm excited at the same time."
Ms Docherty, who says she is "very much anti-death penalty", specialises in mental health law and qualified as a solicitor in 2012.
She added: "I think my time at Frank Irvine has certainly made me even more interested in aspects of civil rights and human rights law. It has made me appreciate how important it is to assist people who are vulnerable and who really do require legal assistance and how valuable that service is to people."
Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith hopes other Scots lawyers will follow Ms Docherty's "marvellous example". The Reprieve director said: "Working in a capital defence office is often demanding and difficult, but volunteers can truly make the difference between life and death."
Ms Docherty's work echoes that done by Sister Helen Prejean who worked with death row cases in New Orleans, and was the focus of film Dean Man Walking starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.