Pro Bono Client Patrick Pursley Receives Certificate of Innocence
Our Pro Bono Commitment
Longtime client Patrick Pursley received a certificate of innocence on February 26, 27 years after he was convicted of murder in a Winnebago County jury trial. The state had relied heavily on the testimony of a state ballistics examiner that a firearm attributed to Mr. Pursley fired the bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene. New evidence, however, showed conclusively that this firearm was not the one used in the crime. For over a decade, a firm team worked on behalf of Mr. Pursley to win a new trial. In January 2019, at the end of that new trial, Judge Joseph G. McGraw acquitted Mr. Pursley.
Watch Mr. Pursley discuss the impact of the certificate.
Learn more about his case in The Heart of the Matter.
Over the years, the team helping Mr. Pursley included Partners Robert R. Stauffer and Andrew W. Vail, Associates Kevin J. Murphy and Monika N. Kothari, and former associate Kyle Palazzolo.
Firm’s Efforts to Free Pro Bono Client Noted in Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Article
Titled “Northwestern Law Center Clears Three Wrongful Convictions,” the article featured the recent successes of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. The firm partnered with the center in the case of Patrick Pursley, who was acquitted of murder after a two-day bench trial in Winnebago County on January 16. Partner Andrew W. Vail, co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee and one of Mr. Pursley’s lawyers, is quoted saying, “It’s a special opportunity that’s made possible by Jenner & Block’s long-standing commitment to pro bono to be able to take on a case like Patrick’s and obtain the necessary experts and deploy the firm’s resources and our attorney skills to bring justice.” On the same day of Mr. Pursley’s acquittal, another client of the center had murder charges in Cook County dropped. On January 24, a center client in New York had his conviction vacated.
Appellate Court Affirms Firm Team’s Win of a New Trial for Patrick Pursley
A Jenner & Block team won another significant victory on behalf of pro bono client Patrick Pursley, who served 23 years in prison on wrongful charges of murder. On May 3, the Illinois Second District Appellate Court affirmed 17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw’s decision last year to vacate Mr. Pursley’s conviction and award him a new trial. The State had appealed Judge McGraw’s decision. This week’s ruling was based on new ballistics evidence establishing that the gun recovered from Mr. Pursley’s residence did not – contrary to the Illinois State Police testimony presented at his trial – fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene. Associate Kevin J. Murphy argued Mr. Pursley’s case before the appellate court. “The appellate court got it right,” Mr. Murphy said in a Rockford Register-Star article on the case. “Patrick has presented new and powerful evidence of his innocence.”
Other members of the Mr. Pursley’s team include Partners Andrew W. Vail and Robert R. Stauffer and Associate Monika N. Kothari. In addition, Partners Anton R. Valukas, Michael J. Nelson and Clifford W. Berlow, along with Associate Matthew T. Gordon, assisted with briefing and preparation for oral argument.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryJuan Rivera’s Conviction Is Reversed
December marks the fifth anniversary of the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District reversing the conviction of pro bono client Juan Rivera. Mr. Rivera had been convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The Illinois court found insufficient evidence to support his conviction in light of the DNA evidence excluding him as the perpetrator.
Click here to learn more about the case.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryAnniversary of Dowaliby Reversal
October marks the 25th anniversary of the Illinois Appellate Court reversing the conviction of pro bono client David Dowaliby in a high-profile case that centered on the kidnapping of Mr. Dowaliby’s 7-year-old daughter Jaclyn in 1988. The Illinois Appellate Court ruled the prosecutors failed to prove that no one else killed Jaclyn and that the evidence against him was not sufficient.
Click here to learn more about the case.
Podcast Features Discussion on the Nicole Harris Case
Karen Daniel, director of Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC), discusses the Nicole Harris case on a recent Undisclosed podcast. Working with the CWC, the firm represented Ms. Harris after she was wrongfully convicted of murdering her 4-year-old son in 2005. The long-running case spanned more than seven years and involved litigating at every level of the state and federal judicial systems. Ultimately, Ms. Harris was freed from prison and exonerated of the crime. She received a certificate of innocence from the court and was reunited with her surviving son. In 2014, the firm and the CWC received the Seventh Circuit Bar Association’s 2014 Pro Bono and Public Service Award for their work on the case. In the podcast, Ms. Daniel examines Ms. Harris’ false confession, given after she was subjected to police interrogation for more than 25 hours and held by herself in a cell. “To this day, Nicole can’t explain why she confessed. What we’ve learned is that everybody has a breaking point,” Ms. Daniel says. To listen to the podcast, click here. The discussion of Ms. Harris’ case starts at minute18:25.
Pro Bono Client Deserves a New Trial, Prosecutors Say
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
Pro Bono: 30 Seconds to Lose Your Life, 30 Years to Get It Back - The Story of Johnnie Lee Savory
Read the full article here...
A History of Pro Bono and Public Service: 1990sThe “Ford Heights Four” Case
Partner Robert L. Byman represented Dennis Williams, one of The “Ford Heights Four” who was released after serving 18 years on death row as a result of a wrongful conviction.
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year Story
Watch Partner Terri Mascherin Discuss the Release of Firm's Pro Bono Client After Serving 19 Years
A team working with attorneys from Northwestern University Law School’s Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions and Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Marshall represented Juan Rivera in appealing his third conviction of the 1992 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Holly Staker. Read more...