Haynes and Boone Awarded W. Frank Newton Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Effort on Behalf of Wrongly Convicted Murder Defendants

06/03/2008

DALLAS – Haynes and Boone, LLP has been selected as the 2008 recipient of the W. Frank Newton Award for outstanding pro bono efforts, one of the highest honors awarded by the State Bar of Texas. 

The firm was selected in recognition of its seven-year effort that freed two Mexican nationals, Alberto Sifuentes and Jesus Ramirez, who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1996 murder of a convenience store clerk in the Texas Panhandle. 

The pro bono defense team was led by partners Barry McNeil, Ron Breaux and Sarah Teachout, with special assistance from partner Alberto de la Pena.  Former Haynes and Boone associate Ashley Duffie was also a part of the original defense team. 

“Barry McNeil, Ron Breaux, and Sarah Teachout worked tirelessly over the past seven years on behalf of these two men,” said Terry Conner, Haynes and Boone managing partner.  “It was truly a labor of love. This dedicated team of lawyers, joined by dozens of other firm attorneys and personnel, routinely went above and beyond in fighting for justice.  It is gratifying to see the recognition of their heroic efforts. This is a wonderful honor and one richly deserved by all.” 

Said Mr. McNeil: “We humbly accept this award on behalf of Alberto and Jesus. But the true victory is that justice has finally been served for these two men.  Our state and our country cannot afford mistakes like this. Each one is a horrible tragedy for both the victim’s family and those wrongly accused.  It was not only our duty, but also our privilege to represent these innocent men. Freedom is the greatest reward.”

The two Mexican nationals were convicted of murder for the brutal 1996 shooting of a Panhandle convenience store clerk.  The defendants, indigent and with poor English skills, both landed life sentences from separate juries despite abundant evidence of their innocence. 

At the request of the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Project, Haynes and Boone agreed to examine the cases in 2002.  The Mexican government had flagged the Sifuentes and Ramirez convictions as part of its capital murder legal defense initiative on behalf of Mexican citizens wrongly convicted by U.S. courts.

In November 2002, the firm agreed to donate whatever resources necessary to seek release of Sifuentes and Ramirez through state and federal habeas corpus fillings.   

In total, Haynes and Boone’s pro bono team dedicated 7,493 hours to the men’s cases. Firm time devoted to the case equates to about $2.35 million. The firm also spent more than $400,000 on private investigative services, exhibit preparation and other expenses for the cases.

On April 29, Lamb County grand jurors refused to indict Sifuentes and Ramirez after a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling  that reversed and vacated their convictions.  The two men were freed after serving 12 years in prison.

The W. Frank Newton Award recognizes the pro bono efforts of a group of attorneys in Texas whose members have made an outstanding contribution in the provision of, or access to, legal services for the poor.   

The annual award will be presented at the Bar Leaders’ Recognition Luncheon at the State Bar annual meeting in Houston on June 26.  Haynes and Boone joins the ranks of recent past winners, including the Houston Legal Department of Exxon Mobil Corporation.  

Haynes and Boone has a long history of providing legal services to the poor with about  300 of the firm’s almost 500 lawyers participating in pro bono matters.  In Mexico City, where the firm operates one of the largest offices of any U.S.-based law firm, partners donated a total of 994 pro bono hours to Mexican individuals and companies seeking opportunities and counsel in the United States.

Haynes and Boone is an international corporate law firm with offices in Texas, New York, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Moscow, providing a full spectrum of legal services. With almost 500 attorneys, Haynes and Boone is ranked among the largest law firms in the nation by The National Law Journal.  The firm has been recognized as one of the "Best Corporate Law Firms in America" (Corporate Board Member Magazine, 2001-2007), and as a Top 100 law firm for both diversity (MultiCultural Law Magazine, 2008) and women (Women 3.0, 2008).


Media Contacts

Nathan Koppel
Director of Media Relations
+1 512.867.8431
nathan.koppel@haynesboone.com
Linda Campbell
Communications Manager
+1 214.651.5362
linda.campbell@haynesboone.com

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