Maslon is proud to announce that on the firm was honored with the 2018 "Light of Justice" Award by the Texas Defender Service, an organization that aims to improve the quality of representation afforded to those facing a death sentence and to expose and eradicate the systemic flaws plaguing the Texas death penalty. The award recognizes the decade-long pro bono representation of Douglas Tyrone Armstrong which, in late November 2017, secured the vacation of his death sentence by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals. Maslon Partner and Pro Bono Committee Chair Julian Zebot accepted the award in Texas on behalf of the firm.
Maslon's work on the matter began in 2007, when a pro bono team—led at varying times by attorneys Julian Zebot, Mike McCarthy, Nicole Narotzky, Catherine Ahlin-Halverson, and alumni Haley Schaffer (now senior litigation counsel at 3M), and U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge David Schultz—agreed to represent Mr. Armstrong in an initial state habeas corpus proceeding, a critical proceeding in a capital case requiring tremendous resources and attorney time. They quickly began work uncovering forensic evidence and eyewitness statements that tended to verify Armstrong's version of events and exonerate him. Maslon filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2009, on the grounds that Armstrong is actually innocent of the crime charged and that Armstrong received patently ineffective assistance of counsel at every stage of the proceedings.
In November 2017, after Armstrong had spent ten years on death row, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Armstrong's death sentence and remanded for a new sentencing. The team's work securing this verdict came as a result of extensive investigation in and outside of Texas in which new evidence was produced related to both guilt and sentencing that the jury had never heard—which fundamentally changed the view of the case.
In March 2018, the trial court sentenced Mr. Armstrong to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty against him as a direct result of the team’s work on his behalf. Maslon plans to continue its long-standing fight for Douglas Tyrone Armstrong's complete exoneration
As stated by the Texas Defender Service, "Maslon's work created a wonderful precedent in Texas that other capitally sentenced individuals and their lawyers will be able to take advantage of in their own cases. In this way, the Maslon's work will live on in Texas long after the representation of Mr. Armstrong ends."
Additional Maslon Armstrong team members included Leora Maccabee, Jevon Bindman, Stephanie Laws, Evan Nelson, John Darda, Diana Marianetti, and Melissa Muro LaMere.
Read Maslon's full press release announcing the vacation of Armstrong's death sentence.
For more information about Texas Defender Service, visit: texasdefender.org.