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.
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A Jenner & Block team recently won another pro bono victory on behalf of Patrick Pursley, who has served more than 23 years in prison on a murder conviction that was recently thrown out.
The firm’s lawyers appeared before 17th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Joseph McGraw on April 13 and argued that, given the likelihood Mr. Pursley would be acquitted of the charges against him at a retrial, he should be granted a low monetary bond. Judge McGraw set a bond of $50,000 for Mr. Pursley, a fraction of the $500,000 to $1 million bond sought by the State of Illinois. The judge’s decision means that Mr. Pursley will need to post $5,000 to be released from prison awaiting his new trial—an amount he will likely be able to assemble with the help of friends and family.
Earlier this year, lawyers from Jenner & Block won Mr. Pursley a new trial based on new ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene. The judge further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State’s own examiners, which refuted Illinois State Police testimony presented at the 1994 trial, entitled Mr. Pursley to a new trial. The State is appealing Judge McGraw’s decision.
The firm, in connection with Steve Drizin of the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008. The Jenner & Block team representing Mr. Pursley includes Partners Andrew W. Vail and Robert R. Stauffer and Associates Kevin J. Murphy and Monika N. Kothari.
A Jenner & Block team won a recent pro bono victory on behalf of Patrick Pursley, who has been incarcerated for the past 23 years, serving a life sentence for a murder conviction. On March 3, Mr. Pursley was granted a new trial based on ballistics evidence establishing that a gun recovered from his residence did not—contrary to evidence presented at his 1994 trial—fire bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scene.
The firm, along with the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions, has represented Mr. Pursley since 2008, winning on appeal a reversal that he was entitled to new ballistics testing under the Illinois Post Conviction Act. You can read more about that work in The National Law Journal in an article titled, “This Win Required a Trip to the Legislature.” In December of 2016, the firm presented the new ballistics evidence at an evidentiary hearing before Chief Judge Joseph McGraw in Rockford. The hearing was covered by the Rockford Register Star, and the Associated Press also issued a story that was picked up by numerous media outlets.
Judge McGraw ruled that expert testimony presenting the new ballistics evidence is newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial. Judge McGraw further ruled that new testimony and conclusions by the State’s own examiners—which refuted the Illinois State Police testimony presented at the 1994 trial—are newly discovered evidence entitling Mr. Pursley to a new trial. The ruling was covered by local media.
The State plans to appeal Judge McGraw’s decision. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, at which the Court will hear Mr. Pursley’s bond motion.