Partner Terri L. Mascherin is quoted in a Chicago Tribune article about pro bono client Adam Gray, who in 1996 was sentenced to mandatory life without parole for setting a fire that killed two people. Now, prosecutors say that Mr. Gray deserves a new trial because dramatic advancements in fire science have “partially invalidated” expert testimony that was crucial to Mr. Gray’s arson and double murder conviction. “We believe, based on what today’s science makes clear, that there is no evidence this fire was an arson. We believe if this case is retried, the jury will find Adam Gray not guilty,” Ms. Mascherin says. Other members of the team include Partner Daniel T. Fenske and Associate Brij B. Patnaik
Our Pro Bono Commitment
The firm is representing, on a pro bono basis, a Brooklyn neighborhood association that is battling the planned development of two residential towers at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) recently filed suit against the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, other government entities, and the developers of the proposed building. The BHA seeks to have the New York State Supreme Court annul the June 7, 2016, vote to build the towers near the park’s Atlantic Avenue entrance and Pier 6. According to a BHA press release, “The BHA, other community groups, and local elected officials have strongly advocated that this land instead by used as parkland and that the long-promised Atlantic Avenue entrance to the park be created.” Further, the BHA argues that revenue generated by the two towers would exceed the financial needs of the park. Partner Richard F. Ziegler is quoted in an article in Politico saying, “They’re going forward with a project that they admit is far larger than what they need to support the park.” In addition to Politico, several other media outlets have reported on the dispute, including the New York Daily News, Brooklyn Paper, Crain’s New York Business, NY 1 News and The Real Deal. In addition to Mr. Ziegler, others on the team representing the BHA include Partner Elizabeth A. Edmondson; Associates Daniel H. Wolf, David B. Diesenhouse and Kara K. Trowell; and Summer Associate Melissa Fedornak.
On June 29, 2016, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Obbish granted post-conviction relief to firm client Arturo Reyes, who has been in prison since 2000, convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and home invasion. His conviction was largely based on a statement he signed after two plus days of questioning by four Chicago police detectives. Prior to his trial, Mr. Reyes unsuccessfully moved to suppress his statement on the ground that it was coerced by an abusive detective, in violation of his due process rights. Notably, no physical evidence connected Mr. Reyes to the crimes for which he was convicted – DNA analysis of evidence from the crime scene connect other people to the murders and do not match Mr. Reyes. He has maintained his innocence.
The firm began representing Mr. Reyes in 2006, shortly after the Illinois Appellate Court reversed and remanded the dismissal of his initial post-conviction petition. The firm helped Mr. Reyes amend his petition, which ultimately advanced to a third stage evidentiary hearing on the basis of his claim of newly discovered evidence that the detective who interrogated him had engaged in a pattern and practice of abuse and coercion that was not known to Mr. Reyes or the trial court when Mr. Reyes initially moved to suppress his confession.
At the third stage evidentiary proceedings, Partners Andrew W. Vail and David P. Saunders and Associate Michael T. Werner, with attorneys from Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Conviction led by Karen Daniel, who represent Mr. Reyes’ co-petitioner, Gabriel Solache, presented Mr. Reyes, Mr. Solache and several witnesses who testified to the pattern and practice, among other evidence. The lawyers also cross-examined the State’s witnesses and called the interrogating former detective to the stand. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not testify in response to all questions.
Based on the evidence, Judge Obbish determined that Mr. Reyes and Mr. Solache made a substantial showing that they had been denied their constitutional right to due process. He ruled that they are entitled to a new motion to suppress hearing and further found that if the newly discovered evidence had been presented at the suppression hearing, “the outcome of petitioners’ previous motion to suppress likely would have been different.”
The firm team is led by Mr. Vail and includes Mr. Saunders and Mr. Werner, as well as Associate Hillary E. August; Staff Attorney Veronica Maldonado; Paralegal W. Michael Hughes; and Project Assistant Nicholas M. Perrone. Partner David Jiménez-Ekman also contributed to Mr. Reyes’ representation. An article about Mr. Reyes’ case and the winning of a new hearing was published by the Sun-Times.
Once again, Jenner & Block ranks among the top 10 in The American Lawyer’s guide to pro bono commitment among the nation’s 200 highest-grossing firms. Based on 2015 hours, the firm ranks #7 in AmLaw’s 2016 guide. Further, Jenner & Block is tied for 10th place in “breadth of commitment,” a chart that ranks firms by the percentage of US-based lawyers who performed more than 20 hours of work in 2015: 77 percent of Jenner & Block lawyers did so. In total, firm lawyers devoted 54,510 hours to pro bono work in 2015. AmLaw has ranked the firm #1 in pro bono seven times, most recently in 2015.
Please click here to read more of our pro bono statistics.
Earlier this year, Jenner & Block was named to The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List,” one of only 10 law firms across the United States that made the list.
Please click here to read more about The National Law Journal’s “Pro Bono Hot List.”
The firm has won the 2016 Exceptional Service Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project. In noting the “exceptionally strong” pool of applicants under consideration this year, the Project’s Awards Committee felt that the breadth of our past and present pro bono commitments, along with our influence on the development of capital punishment law, set us apart.
To read more, please click here to learn more about the firm’s submission for the award.