Pro Bono Client Wins Appeal Seeking To Overturn Wrongful Murder Conviction in Tennessee

October 9, 2009

Cleary Gottlieb won from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals an important victory for a pro bono client who currently is serving a life sentence for first degree murder. The appellate decision reversed a ruling from the trial court that the client’s petition for coram nobis relief (a request for a new trial based on newly-discovered evidence) was time-barred, and remanded the case for a judgment on the merits of the petition. 

The client was originally sentenced to death based on a conviction for the murder of a grocery store owner during a burglary in Memphis in 1983. Cleary Gottlieb previously won a reversal of the client’s death sentence. After the Cleary Gottlieb team persuaded the State not to seek the death penalty again, the client was resentenced to life imprisonment. Since then, investigators for the client have discovered new credible evidence closely linking the prosecution’s key trial witness -- who went unimpeached at trial -- to a group of alternative suspects. Evidence connecting these alternative suspects to the crime had been suppressed by the prosecution at the time of trial and was the subject of a Brady claim, which was rejected by the Tennessee courts in part because of the testimony of the State’s key witness.