Cleary Gottlieb Wins NYC Bar Association Thurgood Marshall Award

June 13, 2008

Cleary Gottlieb has been selected by the New York City Bar Association Committee on Capital Punishment to receive the 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award for Capital Representation in recognition of the firm’s counsel to a former Tennessee death row inmate. The Committee is dedicated to securing capital defendants’ right to competent defense and addressing issues relating to capital punishment. The award, given once every ten years, honors U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and his commitment to the cause of civil rights in the United States. It is given to attorneys and firms based in New York City who have significantly contributed to the pro bono representation of an inmate under a death sentence during the last 10 years.

Our client was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Memphis in 1985, and Cleary Gottlieb began representing him pro bono ten years later. The firm succeeded in having his death sentence overturned in a 2001 decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court based on the prosecution’s improper suppression of favorable evidence relating to sentencing issues in the 1985 trial. While the State could have sought to impose the death penalty again in a resentencing hearing, Cleary Gottlieb persuaded the prosecution to agree not to do so. As a result, our client was given a life sentence with a possibility of parole. Since then, Cleary Gottlieb has focused on seeking to overturn our client’s murder conviction, and spent 1700 hours in 2007 alone pursuing a new trial for our client to hear additional exculpatory evidence that was never revealed at his initial trial. There is currently an appeal pending before the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals of a decision denying a petition for writ of error coram nobis filed by the firm seeking to have our client’s conviction vacated and a new trial ordered.