Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

August 1, 2016 Firm Provides Assistance to Cook County Public Defender’s Office

For pro bono blog: Firm Provides Assistance to Cook County Public Defender’s Office Jenner & Block’s work with Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA) to develop a series of advocacy-based trainings for the Cook County Public Defender’s Office was spotlighted in the CCA’s July 2016 newsletter.  Over the past several months, the firm collaborated with three other law firms to develop a unique training curriculum for lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office.  A team of firm lawyers including Partners Andrew W. Vail, Gabriel A. Fuentes, Barry Levenstam and Michael A. Scodro and Of Counsel Benjamin K. Miller contributed time and material to the project.  The newsletter article quoted Public Defender Amy Campanelli as saying, “Part of what is so exceptional about this project is that four of Chicago’s law firms came together with a common purpose: to equip the Public Defender to better serve the public.”  In addition to creating the initial training and advocacy materials, the firms developed a sustainability playbook that will allow us to provide ongoing support.

Last month, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sent letters to the participating firm lawyers, thanking Jenner & Block for its commitment to helping the Public Defender’s Office provide the best representation possible for its clients.

CATEGORIES: A Vail, B Levenstam, B Miller, Cook County Public Defenders office, G Fuentes, M Scodro

PEOPLE: Gabriel A. Fuentes, Andrew W. Vail, Benjamin K. Miller, Barry Levenstam

July 8, 2016 Firm Wins Post-Conviction Relief for Client in Prison Since 2000

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.

CATEGORIES: A Reyes, A Vail, D Saunders, M Werner

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