Dechert Secures Vacated Life Sentence in Pro Bono Case  

In a significant victory, Dechert secured a vacated sentence for its pro bono client, who had been sentenced to a term of life imprisonment in New York.

The Dechert team included litigation partner Douglas Dunham, counsel Ellen Quackenbos and associates Daniel Goldberg-Gradess and Tamer Mallat. Mallat argued the case before a panel of four justices in the New York Appellate Division.

“We felt we had a strong case, and focused our appeal based on the relationship between the trial justice and one of the prosecutors on the case,” said Dunham. The trial justice’s principal law clerk had previously served as a prosecutor on the case – and had participated in the sentencing proceedings.

“We argued that the trial justice should have recused himself from presiding over the sentencing hearing, due to this relationship,” said Mallat.

The Appellate Division agreed with Dechert’s arguments, holding that the trial justice improvidently exercised his discretion in refusing to recuse himself. The court vacated the sentence imposed and remitted the case for resentencing before a different justice.

“We’re pleased with the result for our client,” noted Dunham, “though there is more work to be done.”

Throughout the representation, Dechert worked closely with co-counsel David Crow of the Legal Aid Society.

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