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Settlement Reached in Challenge to Bronx Court Delays

ECBA, 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,” ECBA 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.”

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Ilann M. Maazel, and Doug Lieb represented the plaintiffs.

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Richard D. Emery Awarded Membership in The National Trial Lawyers Top 100

The National Trial Lawyers recently announced that ECBA 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.

You can learn more about the National Trial Lawyers organization here.

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ECBA Obtains Acquittal for Man Charged with Murder

On February 3, 2017, after a six year odyssey through the criminal justice system, Cesar Villavicencio was acquitted of murder and released from custody. ECBA 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.

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In Retrial, ECBA Wins Acquittal for Man Whose Conviction Was Reversed by First Department

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, ECBA 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. ECBA partners Earl Ward and Elizabeth Saylor tried the case.

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Earl Ward Secures Not-Guilty Verdict for Man Accused of Potsdam Boy’s Murder

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 ECBA 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.

The New York Times extensively covered the trial, among other media outlets. You can watch Judge Cantena read the verdict here. You can listen to Mr. Ward’s closing argument here.

 

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Unreliable DNA Testing Rejected in Upstate Murder Trial

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 ECBA attorney Earl Ward and co-counsel Normal 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 miniscule 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.

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Earl Ward Defends Soccer Coach Accused of Murdering Ex-Girlfriend’s Son in Small-Town NY

ECBA 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.” Watch the 7 News report here. Hillary’s trial is scheduled to begin in August.

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