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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.