This fall, following an evidentiary hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Hangley Aronchick secured the rare relief of a writ of habeas corpus from a state court conviction, striking our client’s 18-year-old conviction.  The Hangley Aronchick team consisted of John S. Stapleton, Jason A. Levine, and paralegal Joy K. Williams.

Judge Freda Wolfson appointed the firm to represent Louis Pierce pro bono in connection with his petition for habeas corpus.  Pierce was convicted in June 2000 for the 1996 attempted murder of two individuals in Camden, New Jersey, one of whom was Mike Rozier, the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner and former professional football player.  Pierce was sentenced to life in prison, 29.5 years of which was parole ineligible.  His multiple appeals and petitions for post-conviction relief during the past 18 years failed.

The firm collected evidence dating back two decades and presented testimony from Mr. Pierce at the evidentiary hearing.  We 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.

Judge Freda Wolfson granted Pierce’s petition, and concluded her 71-page opinion by specifically praising the firm’s work:

“I further take this opportunity to thank the firm of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller and individual counsel Jason Levine and John Stapleton for their able and vigorous advocacy devoted to the pro bono representation of Pierce. By gratuitously providing their services on behalf of Pierce and other indigent litigants, they, and all pro bono counsel, have played an integral part in ensuring that justice is fairly meted based on the merits of the arguments rather than the resources of the litigants. Counsel should know that their thorough efforts and distinguished advocacy have not gone unrecognized or unappreciated.”

The State has filed an appeal from Judge Wolfson’s decision, and the firm continues to represent Mr. Pierce on appeal.