Fulbright Lawyers Convince Federal Prosecutors to Back Down in Pro-Bono Appeal
November 12, 2010
Tillman J. Breckenridge
Mark L. Jensen
After Fulbright filed its opening brief in a pro-bono appeal of a bank robbery case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the government conceded and filed a motion to vacate the Fulbright client's sentence and remand the case to the district court for resentencing.
The appeal involved the operation of the federal Three Strikes statute.
Fulbright's client was convicted of bank robbery in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. At sentencing, the court ruled that this bank robbery was the defendant's third strike and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
After defendant's direct appeal failed, he filed a petition for habeas corpus in the district court based on ineffective assistance of counsel. His petition was denied, and Fulbright was appointed to represent him on appeal in the Fourth Circuit.
Fulbright filed a brief, arguing that the defendant's bank robbery conviction could not be a strike because the circumstances of the robbery met a statutory exclusion from the operation of the Three Strikes law.
Alternatively, Fulbright argued that his predicate common law robbery offenses were not "serious violent crimes." Fulbright further argued that the failure of the defendant's prior counsel to make the statutory exclusion argument was per se ineffective assistance of counsel, and the sentence should be vacated.
In the face of Fulbright's compelling arguments, the government filed a motion to vacate the defendant's sentence and remand his case for resentencing. The defendant joined the motion, and the Court entered judgment vacating his sentence.
The defendant was represented by Fulbright senior associate Tillman Breckenridge, as well as associates Mark Jensen and Shuting Chen. They received assistance from senior associate Kimberly Walker and summer associate Tara Brennan, as well.
The client is delighted with the result, which gives him the opportunity to seek a lower sentence that comports with law.