ECBAWM, The Bronx Defenders, and Morrison & Foerster, LLP announced a settlement of a lawsuit challenging widespread delays in misdemeanor cases in Bronx Criminal Court.
The settlement agreement allows the plaintiffs to monitor the court system for the next four years and to re-open the case if not enough progress is made. It also creates a new mechanism for people charged with misdemeanors to request a speedy trial, at which point the court system will be required to track the progress of their case.
Since the May 2016 filing of the lawsuit, Trowbridge v. DiFiore, the number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than a year in the Bronx dropped from 2,378 to 513. The number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than two years dropped from 538 to 64. But more work remains to be done: the proportion of misdemeanor cases that are more than a year old in the Bronx is still twice as high as in any other borough.
“This settlement is only the beginning,” ECBAWM partner Ilann M. Maazel told the press. “We will be watching the Bronx court system very carefully to make sure that they live up to their promises, achieve parity with the other boroughs, and make speedy trials a reality for everyone in the Bronx.”
The National Trial Lawyers recently announced that ECBAWM Co-Founder Richard Emery was named to its prestigious Top 100. This invitation-only organization is composed of the premier civil plaintiff and criminal defense trial attorneys across the country. Each member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 is chosen for their demonstration of success, experience, influence, and leadership.
On February 3, 2017, after a six-year odyssey through the criminal justice system, Cesar Villavicencio was acquitted of murder and released from custody. ECBAWM partner Earl Ward was able to demonstrate to the jury that the medical examiner’s conclusion that the deceased died from strangulation was wrong and, further, that the death was caused by a drug overdose.
In January 2016 Jaime DeJesus, who was serving a 20-year sentence for assault in the first degree, had his conviction overturned by the First Department appellate court. At the request of his appellate attorneys, who believed in his innocence, ECBAWM agreed to handle his retrial. After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated for less than three hours and acquitted Mr. DeJesus of all charges. ECBAWM partners Earl Ward and Elizabeth Saylor tried the case.
After a three-week trial, Oral Nicholas Hillary was acquitted of the 2011 murder of Garrett Phillips, a 12-year-old resident of Potsdam, New York.
Hillary’s legal team, led by ECBAWM partner Earl S. Ward and co-counsel Norman Siegel, argued that the lack of evidence against Mr. Hillary mandated that he be acquitted of all charges. As Mr. Ward stated in his closing argument, “There is absolutely no direct evidence tying Mr. Hillary to this crime. Nick Hillary is not the type of person that would walk into a room, put his hands around the neck of a child and strangle him, kill that child. That is not Nick Hillary.” Judge Felix J. Cantena agreed, finding Mr. Hillary not guilty of all charges.
A New York judge rejected prosecutors’ attempts to use controversial DNA methods in the upcoming murder trial of Oral Nicholas Hillary, who is represented by ECBAWM attorney Earl Ward and co-counsel Norman Siegel. The August 26 decision is a significant victory for Mr. Hillary, who has maintained his innocence in the 2011 murder of a 12-year-old boy in upstate New York.
Earlier this year, prosecutors stated their intention to use a computer program known as STRmix to analyze a minuscule scraping from the victim’s fingernails, even though previous attempts to link Mr. Hillary’s DNA to the victim were unsuccessful. Mr. Ward and the defense team challenged the reliability of STRmix at two hearings held in July and August. Judge Felix J. Catena for St. Lawrence County Court agreed with the defense that the program lacked validation and ruled that its results are inadmissible.
The trial is scheduled to begin on September 6 in Canton, New York.
ECBAWM partner Earl Ward is representing Oral “Nick” Hillary, a soccer coach in Potsdam, New York, accused in a racially-charged case of killing his ex-girlfriend’s son. As Earl told Potsdam’s 7 News, “This is a case that I think has torn apart the community up there in some ways and I think everyone wants to make sure that justice is done, and justice, as far as I’m concerned, is a verdict that clears Mr. Hillary.” Hillary’s trial is scheduled to begin in August.
Tiona Rodriguez, an 18-year-old girl, was charged with second-degree murder after she was found with the body of her newborn son in a shopping bag. Earl Ward represented Ms. Rodriguez, who maintained her innocence and said the child was stillborn.
The New York District Attorney asked a judge to dismiss all charges against Yon Pomrenze, a journalist represented by ECBAWM’s Earl Ward, who was accused of sneaking into the new World Trade Center building while on assignment. He was originally charged with criminal trespass. Mr. Ward called the arrest “baseless.”