State of Georgia v. Brian Nichols—On December 13, 2008, Brian Nichols was sentenced to multiple life sentences without parole for four murders and related crimes that occured on March 11, 2005. Lead counsel Henderson Hill and Jake Sussman were appointed to represent Nichols in July 2005, and prevailed with a life sentence against extraordinary odds. The pre-trial litigation involved hundreds of motions, scores of hearings, and multiple trips to the Georgia Supreme Court on issues related to the case. Jury selection last approximately two months. Trial commenced on September 22, 2008, and lasted nearly three months.
State v. Allen—Henderson Hill secured a life sentence for Timothy Allen in Halifax County. Allen had originally been sentenced to death in 1985 for the murder of State Trooper Ray Worley, but won a new sentencing hearing in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. Gretchen Engel of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham was co-counsel.
State v. Hardy—The firm represented Melvin Jay Hardy, Jr., during state post-conviction proceedings. Mr. Hardy was on death row for two separate murders in Mecklenburg County in 1995 and 1997. Following a four-day evidentiary hearing in March 2005, the court overturned Mr. Hardy’s death sentence. The North Carolina Supreme Court subsequently upheld the lower court’s decision and Mr. Hardy was taken off of North Carolina’s death row. Mark Kleinschmidt of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham was co-counsel.
State v. Lane—The state sought the death penalty against Ms. Lane for the 2000 killing of her husband, NFL running back Fred Lane, in Mecklenburg County. Following extensive pre-trial investigation and negotiation, Ms. Lane entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to between approximately 8 to 10 years. Further litigation by the firm resulted in Ms. Lane gaining nearly 3 years of jail credit, reducing her ultimate sentence even more. The jail credit issue was complicated by the fact that Ms. Lane, while out of pre-trial bond for the capital murder charge, was arrested and charged on federal bank larceny charges for conspiring with a teller to steal $41,200 from a Charlotte bank two years earlier. The firm worked out a guilty plea to the federal charges for Ms. Lane while the state capital charges remained pending, for which she was sentenced to four months in jail.
State v. Darryl Hunt—Nearly 20 years after being charged with murder in Forsyth County, Darryl Hunt was exonerated of all charges on February 6, 2004. The firm represented Hunt in both State v. Hunt, 91 N.C. App. 574, 372 S.E.2d 744 (1988) (the Arthur Wilson case), and State v. Hunt, 324 N.C. 343, 378 S.E.2d 754 (1989) (the Deborah Sykes case), and remained a part of the defense team through to the exoneration and ultimate pardon of Mr. Hunt.
Fowler v. North Carolina—428 U.S. 904 (1976), the Unites States Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether North Carolina’s judicially-created mandatory death sentence for murder was cruel and unusual punishment. The firm represented Mr. Fowler in association with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. The case was argued but not decided during the Supreme Court’s 1974 Term. Mr. Fowler’s death sentence was ultimately set aside by a Memorandum Order when the Supreme Court ruled in Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976), that mandatory death penalties were unconstitutional.