In late 2018, Hangley Aronchick attorneys won the rare relief of a writ of habeas corpus for a Camden man serving a life sentence since 2000, and today we are proud to announce that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has unanimously affirmed that decision.

Our client, Louis Pierce, was convicted for the 1996 attempted murder of two individuals in Camden, New Jersey.  Pierce was sentenced to life in prison, 29.5 years of which was parole ineligible. Hangley Aronchick took on Pierce’s appeal in 2017 and successfully argued that Pierce was denied effective assistance of counsel in violation of his constitutional rights because he was not called as a witness at his own trial – despite his desire to testify – and his testimony could have swayed a reasonable jury.  His conviction essentially rested on the strength of a single witness’ identification testimony and no other physical evidence. [Learn more]

In December 2018, U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson ordered that the State of New Jersey release Pierce or set a new trial date, and praised the Hangley Aronchick team for their “able and vigorous advocacy” and for “play[ing] an integral part in ensuring that justice is fairly meted based on the merits of the arguments rather than the resources of the litigants.”  The State of New Jersey appealed Judge Wolfson’s decision and obtained a stay of the release order, but on April 8, 2020, a Third Circuit panel unanimously affirmed Judge Wolfson’s decision and, in response to an emergency motion Hangley Aronchick filed last month to lift the stay in light of the risk of our client contracting COVID-19, the panel ordered order his immediate release.  On April 15, 2020, Pierce walked out of prison for the first time in nearly 21 years.

Litigation Shareholder Jason Levine, a leader of the firm’s team in this matter, noted:  “In this difficult and surreal time, the Third Circuit’s opinion and order are incredibly uplifting and underscore the profound impact attorneys can have on peoples’ lives.”

In addition to Levine, the Hangley Aronchick team on this matter included associates Andrew Erdlen and Christina Matthias, paralegal Joy Williams, and legal assistants Jackie Barnes, Deb Coulbourn, Hilda Thompson, and Amy Glessner. Former Hangley Aronchick shareholder John Stapleton served as co-counsel and remained an integral part of the team.

Read the Opinion