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Paul, Weiss Wins Freedom for Pro Bono Client Wrongfully Convicted of Murder

After a 15-year fight on his behalf, Paul, Weiss secured the freedom of a pro bono client who was wrongfully convicted in 1996 of a murder he did not commit.

On September 13, after 24 years behind bars, our client, Pablo Fernandez, walked out of a Manhattan courtroom a free man following a ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Curtis Farber dismissing the criminal indictment against him. He has always maintained his innocence.

Pablo Fernandez, Daniel Beller and David Brown leaving the courthouse on
September 13

Paul, Weiss has been fighting Mr. Fernandez’s wrongful conviction since 2005 through the New York state and federal courts. In February 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned his conviction as unconstitutional, finding credible evidence that a NYPD officer had improperly pressured a teenage witness to identify Mr. Fernandez falsely as the perpetrator at trial.  Even though the Circuit’s opinion made it clear that the prosecution’s case against Mr. Fernandez was based on perjury by a government witness, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office decided in April to attempt to retry Mr. Fernandez and reinstituted the case in Manhattan criminal court.

With Paul, Weiss vigorously defending Mr. Fernandez in state court, the D.A.’s case, which was built on fabrications and official misconduct, collapsed in recent months. In late July 2019, the prosecution made shocking disclosures to the Paul, Weiss defense team, including statements by a cooperating witness alleging rampant misconduct by the NYPD and deliberate use of perjured testimony by the trial prosecutor. Our team also learned about perjury by another cooperator, who had falsely testified that he was in Upper Manhattan with Mr. Fernandez two days before the shooting. According to prison records, on that day he was incarcerated approximately 312 miles away from New York City.

On August 1, following these disclosures, Mr. Fernandez was granted bail, and he walked out of the Rikers Island jail the next evening, into the arms of his wife and family. Subsequently, the shocking disclosures of July, and the weakness of the prosecution’s case, led to the D.A.’s decision to move to dismiss the case. 

Mr. Fernandez survived decades of unjust incarceration because of his faith in God, the support of his family and the dedication of a legal team that never stopped believing in his innocence and fighting for his freedom. Paul, Weiss lawyers have spent thousands of hours battling for his release.

The Paul, Weiss defense team was led by of counsel Daniel Beller and litigation partner David Brown, and included litigation partners Michele Hirshman, Kannon Shanmugam and Jeh Johnson, of counsel Daniel Leffell, counsel Darren Johnson, Emily Goldberg, Masha Hansford and Farrah Berse and associates Jesus Franco, Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, Elyssa Abuhoff, Nairuby Beckles, Tony Joe, Evan Goldstick, Edward Robinson, Christman Rice, Arianna Markel, Michael Brodlieb, Danielle Hayes, Jesse Crew, Apeksha Vora, Jason Sugarman, Livia Fine, Robert Pollack, Daniel Sinnreich, Jeremy Liss, Alexia Yang and Jacob Berman; and tax partner Patrick Karsnitz and associate Christopher Garos.

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