A team from Maslon LLP has earned a group Lawyer of the Year award for a 12-year effort that has succeeded in removing a Texas prison inmate from death row.
The inmate, Douglas Tyrone Armstrong, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2007, whereupon Maslon took up the case and began serving as Armstrong’s habeas counsel. Since then, the firm has committed thousands of attorney hours in an effort to provide the kind of legal assistance the man had not received previously.
Julian Zebot, a partner in the firm’s commercial-litigation group, said that the team quickly discovered that the Armstrong defense prior to the initial capital trial had been marked by serious deficiencies on the part of the court-appointed lawyer. In addition, the team uncovered new forensic evidence to support Armstrong’s claim of innocence.
The Maslon team thus filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and in late 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated the death sentence and ordered a new trial. In March 2018, a trial court sentenced Armstrong to life imprisonment, but the Maslon team is continuing its fight for exoneration, appealing the conviction to the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas.
“I think I can speak for the team in saying that for a lot of us, it reinforced many of the reasons we decided to become lawyers in the first place—the opportunity to make a fundamental difference in our clients’ lives,” Zebot said. “This truly has been a team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of my colleagues and partners here at Maslon for their dedication to this matter.”