Reafeal Fields: On November 6, 2023, a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Court vacated Reafeal Fields's 2012 first-degree murder conviction - in connection with a February 2010 murder. The vacuatur was based on Brady violations regarding former - and now convicted - homicide detective Phillip Nordo. Once his first-degree murder conviction and life without parole sentences were vacated, Mr. Fields agreed to take an Alford plea to third-degree murder in exchange for a 21- to 42-year sentence - which is far better than his previous life without parole sentence. During his plea colloquy, Mr. Fields didn't admit guilt; instead, he simply acknowledged the DAO had evidence that could possibly lead to his reconviction for first-degree murder - and it was "in his best interests" to take the 21- to 42-year sentence instead of risking another life without parole sentence. Mr. Fields still stands by his innocence - but knows better than anyone the criminal justice system is built on forcing defendants to make these type of very difficult decisions.
Bruce Reese: On September 14, 2023, District Court Judge Anita B. Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania - entered an order adopting Magistrate Judge Scott E. Reid's August 29, 2023 Report & Recommendation regarding Bruce Reese's federal habeas petition - which challenged his 1984 double-murder conviction and life without parole ("LWOP") sentence. Judge Brody, therefore, entered an order vacating Mr. Reese's second-degree murder convictions and LWOP sentence - and ordered the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office to retry Mr. Reese by December 13, 2023 - or release him from custody.
Bruce Reese: On August 29, 2023, Magistrate Judge Scott E. Reid of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued his Report & Recommendation regarding Bruce Reese's federal habeas petition - challenging his 1984 double-murder conviction - which stemmed from a September 1982 bar robbery in Philadelphia. Judge Reid recommended that the District Court - Judge Anita B. Brody - grant Mr. Reese a writ of habeas corpus - and overturn his double-murder conviction - because the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office ("DAO") suppressed material exculpatory evidence before Mr. Reese's 1984 trial. On September 1, 2023, the DAO filed a letter with Judge Brody informing her it had no objections regarding Judge Reid's opinion and recommendation. Mr. Cooley has represented Mr. Reese since 2015.
Donta Regusters: On August 18, 2023, a Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court judge vacated Mr. Regusters's first-degree murder conviction after the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office's Conviction Integrity Unit ("CIU") agreed that Mr. Regusters didn't receive a fair trial in 2012 - when he was prosecuted for an August 28, 2010 murder. The CIU agreed that disgraced former and now convicted detective, Phillip Nordo's, involvement and testimony at Mr. Regusters's trial rendered it unfair. The CIU's Answer is located here. Once Judge Glenn Bronson vacated Mr. Regusters's conviction, the CIU immediately moved to dismiss all charges - which Judge Bronson granted - allowing Mr. Regusters to be release from SCI-Frackville that day: August 18, 2023. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Regusters from 2000 to 2023.
Ricky McGinnis: On April 19, 2023, Mr. Cooley argued before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Mr. McGinnis's case. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will decide whether the trial court erred by excluding Mr. McGinnis's expert testimony regarding false and/or distorted memories in children. The Legal Intelligencer reported on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's grant here.
Marvin Robinson: On January 27, 2023, the Dauphin County Common Pleas Court vacated Marvin Robinson's first-degree murder conviction and LWOP sentence based trial counsel's ineffectiveness. In lieu of retrying Marvin, the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office (DAO) and Mr. Robinson jointly negotiated an agreement where - if Marvin pled no contest to third-degree murder (where he could still proclaim his innocence) - the DAO would agree to a time-served sentence for the third-degree murder "no contest" conviction. Mr. Robinson agreed to these terms, pled no contest, and walked out of the Dauphin County Courthouse that day - a free man for the first time in 22 years. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Robinson from 2021 to 2023.
Ricky McGinnis: On June 6, 2022, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to review Ricky McGinnis's conviction, which involves the important issue of false and/or distorted memories in children. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will decide whether the trial court erred by excluding Mr. McGinnis's expert testimony regarding false and/or distorted memories in children. The Legal Intelligencer reported on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's grant here. Mr. Cooley has represented Mr. McGinnis since 2000.
Rafiq Dixon: On April 6, 2022, after the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office's ("DAO") Conviction Integrity Unit agreed Mr. Dixon was entitled to a new trial, the Philadelphia County Common Plea Court overturned Mr. Dixon's 2012 first-degree murder conviction based on credible alibi testimony never presented to the jury. On April 21, 2022, the DAO dismissed all charges because of the credible alibi testimony as well as (now convicted) Detective Phillip Nordo's involvement with Mr. Dixon's case. The Philadelphia Inquirier reported on Mr. Dixon's exoneration here. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Dixon from 2014 to 2022.
Roy Bodden: On August 20, 2021, the Durham County Superior Court vacated Mr. Bodden's 15 to 20 year prison sentence for second-degree murder and resentenced him to time served based on a negotiated agreement between Mr. Cooley and the Durham County District Attorney's Office. The agreement grew out of Mr. Cooley's investigation regarding the State's key witness and whether this witness received non-disclosed benefits for his testimony against Mr. Bodden. The Raleigh News & Observer reported on Mr. Bodden's new sentence here.
Jayquon Massey (PA): On July 12, 2021, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Mr. Massey's 2008 first-degree murder conviction from Allegheny County based on trial counsel's failure to request a voluntary manslaughter instruction at trial. The Third Circuit's opinoin can be found here. In June 2022, Mr. Massey and the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office entered into a negotiated plea agreement. In exchange for a 14- to 28-year sentence, Mr. Massey agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Massey from 2015 to 2022.
Pedro Reynoso (PA): On June 17, 2020, Jason Flom and Now This published Mr. Flom's most recent Wrongful Conviction episode featuring Pedro Reynoso - Mr. Cooley's longtime client. Mr. Reynoso has been in prison since March 1994 for a July 23, 1991 double-murder in Philadelphia. Mr. Reynoso, though, was in another country - the Dominican Republic - on the day of the double-murder and at least thirteen people can verify his presence in the Dominican Republic on this day. Mr. Cooley and his co-counsel, Nilam Sanghvi of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, are currently challenging Mr. Reynoso's convictions in federal court - where we are awaiting the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation. Mr. Cooley has represented Mr. Reynosos since 2016.
Andrew Swainson (PA): On June 12, 2020, a Philadelphia County Common Pleas Judge vacated Andrew Swainson's first-degree murder conviction. For many years Mr. Cooley and his co-counsel from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and MorganLewis developed substantial evidence of Andrew's innocence. This evidence prompted the Philadelphia County District Attorney's Office ("DAO") and its Conviction Integrity Unit ("CIU") to reexamine Mr. Swainson's case. Based on its reexamination, the CIU concluded the DAO (in 1988 and 1989) not only suppressed substantial evidence before Mr. Swainson's 1989 trial, rendering his trial fundamentally unfair, the CIU believed Mr. Swainson was likely innocent of the 1988 murder that resulted in his 32 years of imprisonment (1988 to 2020). Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Swainson for 2007 to 2020.
Arthur Johnson (PA): On February 7, 2020, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Mr. Johnson was entitled to a writ of habeas corpus and a new trial regarding his first-degree murder conviction because the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and trial court improperly admitted a statement from Tyrone Wright, Mr. Johnson's co-defendant, and Mr. Johnson couldn't confront Tyrone Wright becasue Mr. Wright never testified ("Bruton error"). The Third Circuit said the Bruton error prejudiced Mr. Johnson entitling him to a new trial. The Third Circuit's opinion can be found here. In March 2022, Mr. Johnson entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. In exchange for a 14- to 28-year sentence, Mr. Johnson agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder. In August 2023, Mr. Johnson was paroled. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Johnson from 2016 to 2022.
Pedro Reynoso (PA): On December 20, 2019, Mr. Cooley argued before the Pennsylvania Pardons Board, requesting a commutation for his client Pedro Reynoso. Mr. Reynoso is factually innocent of a July 23, 1991 double-murder in Philadelphia for which he stands convicted of because at least thirteeen people place him in the Dominican Republic on the day of the double-murder. Although the Pardons Board didn't grant Mr. Reynoso's commutation request, it didn't deny it either. The Pardons Board held it under advisement, meaning the Pardons Board will, hopefully, rehear his petition and grant him a commutation in the near future.
Jevarve Wise (NC): On December 17, 2019, the North Carolina Court of Appeals granted Mr. Wise a new trial becasue the trial court erreonoulsy refused to charge attempted common law robbery. The new trial grant vacates Mr. Wise's attempted armed robbery conviction.
Jamie McVicker (PA): On September 13, 2019, the Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated Mr. McVicker's attempted third-degree murder conviction and remanded back to the Somerset County Common Pleas Court for restencing. In December 2019, at Mr. McVicker's resentencing hearing, Mr. Cooley successfully argued that the Somerset County Common Pleas Court should reduce Mr. McVicker's sentence by 11 years.
Pedro Reynoso (PA): On August 28, 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Mr. Reynoso's federal habeas petition back to the District Court, finding that Mr. Reynoso presented "new evidence" of his innocence in his federal habeas petition that triggered the "actual innocence" exception to the federal habeas statute's 1-year limitations period.
Shawn Burton (PA): On May 24, 2019, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the PCRA court's ruling regarding Mr. Burton's newly-discovered fact/innocence claim and remanded his case back to the PCRA court with instructions to adjudicate the claim properly.
John Brookins (PA): On April 3, 2019, the Innocence Project agreed to sign on as co-counsel and help Mr. Cooley obtain DNA testing for John Brookins. Mr. Brookins is seeking to prove he didn’t murder Shelia Ginsberg on December 20, 1990 in Bucks County (PA). To learn more about Mr. Brookins’s case please visit www.bringbrookinshome.com.
Darwin Peralta (NC): On February 13, 2019, the North Carolina Court of Appeals granted Mr. Cooley’s client, Darwin Peralta, oral argument regarding is direct appeal challenging his child sex abuse conviction. Mr. Cooley argued Mr. Peralta’s case on March 12, 2019 before the Court of Appeals.
Damien McGill (NC): On September 18, 2018, Mr. Cooley's North Carolina client, Damien McGill, had his felon in possession of a firearm conviction overturned by the North Carolina Court of Appeals due to insufficient evidence.
John Kunco (PA): On May 23, 2018, a Westmoreland County (PA) Common Pleas Court judge granted Mr. Kunco a new trial in light of new DNA evidence proving could not be the individual who brutally raped an elderly woman in New Kensington in December 1990. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Kunco for five years while at the Innocence Project (2007-2012) and remained connected to the case after he left the Innocence Project. Mr. Kunco served 27 years in prison. His conviction rested primarily on bite mark identification testimony from two forensic dentist. The DNA evidence proves the bite mark identification testimony was erronous. The Washington Post has written extensively about Mr. Kunco's case, particularly the egregious bite mark testimony used to convict him of a sexual assault he did not commit. The Commonwealth says it intends to appeal Mr. Kunco's new trial victory.
Paul Eldred (NC): On May 1, 2018, the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated Mr. Eldred's DWI conviction because the State failed to present substantial evidence Mr. Eldred was intoxicated when he wrecked his truck the night he was arrested.
Robert Carter (NC): On July 18, 2017, the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated Mr. Carter's possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine conviction and maintaining a dwelling/building for keeping/selling a controlled substance conviction based on trial counsel's failure to timely move to dismiss both counts on insufficiency grounds.
Shawn Burton (PA): On March 28, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Mr. Burton a hearing on his innocence claim. In September 1993, Mr. Burton and his co-defendant, Melvin Goodwine, were convicted in connection with the March 1993 murder of Seth Floyd inside the Allegheny County jail. Mr. Burton was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy. Goodwine, though, was acquitted of the murder charge and only convicted of conspiracy. In July 2009, after Goodwine served his sentence for his conspiracy conviction, he filed a motion to expunge the conspiracy conviction. Within his expungement motion, Goodwine wrote that he, himself, killed Seth Floyd in self-defense and that Mr. Burton had nothing to do with Floyd's murder. Goodwine also wrote that his trial attorney advised him it was not in his best interest to argue self-defense at trial, so Goodwine's self-defense claim was never mentioned at trial. In May 2013, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project ("PA IP") received Goodwine's expungement motion from Twyla Bivins, who claims she received it from Goodwine's ex-girlfriend. The PA IP forwarded Goodwine's expungement motion to Mr. Burton and advised him to file a PCRA petition based on the statements made in the motion. In July 2013, Mr. Burton filed a pro se PCRA petition, but the PCRA court rejected the petition because Goodwine's expungement motion was a "public record" and under then existing case law pro se inmates were presumed to know the contents of all publicly available documents and when these documents were made public. In other words, the PCRA court argued that Mr. Burton could've filed his PCRA petition as early as July 2009, when Goodwine actually filed the expungement motion, but because he filed his PCRA petition in July 2013 he was not diligent. Mr. Burton appealed pro se and in July 2014 the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed, but the Commonwealth successfully argued for en banc review. In August 2015, though, the en banc Superior Court reversed again, finding that the "presumption" regarding "public records" cannot apply to pro se litigants for several reasons. Commonwealth v. Burton, 121 A.3d 1063 (Pa. Super. 2015). In September 2015, Mr. Cooley wrote Mr. Burton and offered to represent him pro bono. Mr. Burton accepted Mr. Cooley's offer. In the meantime, though, the Commonwealth convinced the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the en banc Superior Court decision. Mr. Cooley and Paige Forster of ReedSmth's Pittsburgh office represented Mr. Burton before the Supreme Court. In its March 28, 2017 decision, the Supreme Court endorsed and adopted the Superior Court's rationale for not applying the automatic "presumption" regarding "public records" to pro se inmates. Based on the Supreme Court's ruling, Mr. Burton is entitled to a hearing regarding the innocence claim based on Goodwine's expungement motion. The hearing has not yet been scheduled. Here's the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's article regarding the Supreme Court's decision.
Henry Surpris (NC): Mr. Cooley recently won a significant victory in North Carolina where the North Carolina Court of Appeals granted his client, Henry Surpris, a new trial after Mr. Cooley and his co-counsel uncovered significant evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The Wake County (NC) prosecutor ultimately resigned only a few weeks after the Court of Appeals granted Mr. Surpris a new trial. The case is State v. Barshiri Sandy and Henry Surpris, 788 S.E.2d 200 (N.C. App. 2016).
Anthony Wright (PA): One of Mr. Cooley's first clients at the Innocence Project was Anthony Wright. Mr. Wright was convicted of a 1991 rape-murder in Philadelphia County. At the turn of the millennium, when Pennsylvania enacted its post-conviction DNA testing statute, Mr. Wright sought post-conviction DNA testing under the statute. The Common Pleas Court and Superior Court denied Mr. Wright's request because, according to lead detective Manuel Santiago, Mr. Wright confessed to the rape-murder. The Common Pleas Court and Superior Court said inmates who had confessed to their crimes were not entitled to post-conviction DNA testing. Mr. Cooley wrote the Petition for Allowance of Appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in November 2007 urging the Supreme Court to review Mr. Wright’s case and to grant DNA testing. In August 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to review Mr. Wright's case and in April 2011, the Supreme Court overturned the Superior Court and granted Mr. Wright DNA testing. Commonwealth v. Wright, 14 A.3d 798 (Pa. 2011) The DNA testing ultimately excluded Mr. Wright and identified a man named Ronnie Byrd - a prior felon. The Philadelphia County District Attorney's Office agreed to vacate Mr. Wright's conviction and chose to retrial Mr. Wright. On August 23, 2016, a Philadelphia County jury deliberated for only 15 minutes before acquitting Mr. Wright. Peter Neufeld and Samuel Silver of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis represented Mr. Wright at his retrial.
Kevin Siehl (PA): Another one of Mr. Cooley's longtime clients at the Innocence Project was Kevin Siehl. In 1992, Mr. Siehl was convicted of his wife’s July 1991 murder. Mr. Siehl always maintained his innocence, but at trial a Pennsylvania State Police fingerprint examiner identified Mr. Siehl’s fingerprint on a showerhead and said Mr. Siehl had to have deposited the fingerprint at the time his wife was murdered in her shower. Fingerprint examiners cannot time date fingerprints. Rudimentary serology blood testing also supposedly linked Mr. Siehl to his wife's bathroom. The Cambria County District Attorney's Office, though, conducted additional serology tests only hours before Mr. Siehl’s 1992 trial that supported Mr. Siehl’s innocence and his exculpatory pre-trial statements to detectives. The District Attorney's Office, though, never disclosed the exculpatory serology results. However, after challenging his conviction for the last two decades, Mr. Siehl and his current attorney, Lisa Freeland, uncovered the exculpatory serology results. Based on the suppressed serology results as well as other instances of prosecutorial misconduct and trial counsel ineffectiveness, a Centre County judge granted Mr. Siehl a new trial in July 2016. On October 14, 2016, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office dismissed all charges against Mr. Siehl due to a lack of evidence against him and Mr. Siehl was released from prison after being unjustly imprisoned for 25 years. Congrats to Mr. Siehl, Lisa Freeland (his attorney), and to all the Innocence Project staff who worked on Mr. Siehl’s case over the last decade.
Lewis Fogle (PA): Another one of Mr. Cooley's longtime Innocence Project clients was Lewis Fogle. In February 1982, Mr. Fogle was convicted of Katharine Long's July 1976 rape-murder in Indiana County. Ms. Long's rape-murder went unsolved for five years until a mentally unstable man named Earl Elderkin implicated Mr. Fogle and Mr. Fogle’s brother, Dennis Fogle. Elderksin’s statement implicating Lewis and Dennis was procured when police used a psychologist to hypnotize Elderkin to help him remember the events of Ms. Long's rape-murder. The psychologist had no formal training in hypnosis. Besides the hypnosis-induced testimony from Elderkin, the prosecution presented three jailhouse informants who said Lewis had confessed to them to murdering Ms. Long. Lewis always maintained his innocence, but couldn't prove his innocence until the summer of 2015 when DNA testing from evidence collected from Ms. Long's sexual assault kit proved that neither Lewis nor Dennis Fogle rape and murdered Ms. Long. On August 13, 2015, Mr. Fogle was released from prison after serving nearly 35 years. A month later, the Indiana County District Attorney's Office formally dismissed all charges against Mr. Fogle. Mr. Cooley represented Mr. Fogle from 2008 to 2012. During this time period, Mr. Cooley and his Innocence Project law students diligently sought the critical biological evidence from Ms. Long's autopsy and sexual assault kit. While Mr. Cooley's law students found some evidence, it did not find the key evidence. In 2015, though, Innocence Project attorney, Karen Thompson, and her law student located the critical biological evidence that ultimately resulted in Mr. Fogle’s release and exoneration.