CHICAGO (September 20, 2007) — On September 17, 2007, a unanimous panel of the Seventh Circuit reversed the criminal conviction of Firm pro bono client Felix Vasquez-Ruiz and remanded his case to the district court for a new trial.
The Seventh Circuit's decision was the culmination of years of work by members of McDermott’s Chicago Trial Department, who were first appointed to Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz’s case in 2004. At that time, Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz was representing himself in habeas proceedings before the Northern District of Illinois and seeking the right to file an appeal that his previous lawyer had failed to file before the deadline. Although the district court initially denied Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz’s motion, it recognized that it was required to hold an evidentiary hearing.
After investigating Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz’s allegations that his previous lawyer had failed to consult with him regarding the appeal and assembling detailed documentary evidence, the McDermott team conducted a day-long evidentiary hearing and persuaded the district court to grant Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz the habeas relief he sought—the right to appeal his underlying conviction. McDermott then pursued an appeal on Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz 's behalf, presenting multiple trial and sentencing arguments to the Seventh Circuit. In the most significant of those arguments, McDermott asserted that the district court should have granted a mistrial due to misconduct during jury deliberations. After reviewing the briefs and hearing oral argument, the court agreed with McDermott and concluded that the misconduct could only be cured by granting a mistrial. Accordingly, it reversed Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz 's conviction and remanded the case to the district court for a new trial.
The McDermott team representing Mr. Vasquez-Ruiz included Jeffrey Stone, head of the Firm’s Trial Department; Jeffrey Rossman; Jocelyn Francoeur, who argued the appeal before the Seventh Circuit; and Megan Thibert-Ind.
McDermott Will & Emery recognizes and appreciates the need to give back to the communities of which it is a part, assisting those who are unable to afford legal services. The Firm strongly encourages lawyers and staff to participate in pro bono activities, volunteer services and charitable activities. Our Pro Bono & Community Services Committee seeks to ensure that the same Firm standards of quality, service and care that are given to our paying clients are also afforded to those we serve on a pro bono basis.