Hughes Hubbard secured dismissal of a murder conviction of a pro bono client who served more than 23 years in prison.
On Aug. 31, 2015, Ruddy Quezada was released from Rikers Island after Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson admitted his long-serving predecessor had withheld key evidence in the case.
"I'm committed to justice and fairness before, during and after a trial," said Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. "Here, due to what we uncovered, we will not continue with the hearing because to do so would be unfair to Mr. Quezada. And since we can't retry this case, we will no longer object to his release."
Quezada, 53, has been serving a sentence of 25 years to life since his second-degree murder conviction in 1993. He was accused of killing Jose Rosado in a drive-by shooting in East New York in 1991 and arrested after two men fingered him as the gunman.
David Shanies and Sarah Cave have fought for Quezada's freedom since 2010, when they were appointed to serve as his pro bono counsel by U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in connection with his application for a writ of habeas corpus.
In October of that year, they won a groundbreaking victory for Quezada when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted Quezada's motion for authorization to file a second habeas corpus petition, asserting that his constitutional right to due process was violated by the state's use of perjured testimony to secure his conviction. After obtaining and completing discovery in federal court, Hughes Hubbard filed a post-conviction motion in state court last year and succeeded in securing an evidentiary hearing on Quezada's claims.
Hughes Hubbard argued that the key witness in the 1993 trial, one of the two men who had fingered Quezada, did not come forward on his own as the prosecution claimed. Rather, he was held against his will in a hotel room by prosecutors under a material-witness order and coerced by a detective into falsely testifying against Quezada. The witness, Sixto Salcedo, recanted his testimony in 2001, and two federal cooperating witnesses have also told prosecutors that Quezada was not the gunman.
Prosecutors denied there was any such order during the trial and in post-conviction arguments in the early to mid-2000s. But the DA's office dropped the case after they discovered a 2004 email on Aug. 28 acknowledging the material-witness order.
"This has been a long and hard-fought battle, but [Monday] night we watched Ruddy walk free and rejoin his family after 24 years of wrongful imprisonment," Shanies was quoted as saying by the New York Law Journal. "We are thrilled with that outcome."
The victory made headlines in The New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News and on the front page of the New York Law Journal.
The Hughes Hubbard team, led by Shanies and supervised by Cave and Marc Weinstein, also included Erin Diers, Sara Echenique, Dayo Oshilaja and Ashley Hodges.