Dechert Secures Historic Settlement for Pro Bono Client

January 02, 2020

On December 26, 2019, Dechert secured a US$4.15 million settlement for Shaurn Thomas, a pro bono client who spent 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. This is the largest civil settlement that the city of Philadelphia has ever paid in a non-DNA exoneration case. In September 2017, Dechert filed a civil suit against the city of Philadelphia and two of its detectives on behalf of Mr. Thomas to compensate him for his wrongful conviction.

In 1994, Mr. Thomas was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In 2009, Dechert Senior Staff Attorney James Figorski began representing Mr. Thomas to secure his release from prison. After 8 years of Mr. Figorski’s work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Mr. Thomas was released in May, 2017. He spent nearly 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, because detectives involved in the case violated his constitutional rights. Specifically, the detectives violated his 4th and 14th amendment rights by coercing two witnesses to testify falsely against him, failing to fully investigate his alibi of which they were aware, and hiding exculpatory evidence showing that the two witnesses’ coerced testimony was false.

This landmark settlement marks the final chapter in Dechert’s fight to bring justice for Mr. Thomas, which started nearly a decade ago. While there’s no amount of money that can make up for what Mr. Thomas has endured, this settlement will hopefully provide support for him to start a new life.

The Dechert team was led by Civil Rights Counsel Stephen Brown and senior staff attorney James Figorski, and assisted by associates Tiffany Engsell and Stefanie Tubbs. The Dechert team could not have achieved this result without the help of co-counsel Paul Messing and David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP.

About Dechert

Dechert is a leading global law firm with 26 offices around the world. We advise on matters and transactions of the greatest complexity, bringing energy, creativity and efficient management of legal issues to deliver commercial and practical advice for clients.