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Pro Bono Client Wins Exoneration After 26 Years of Wrongful Incarceration in Bronx Shooting Case

Paul, Weiss and co-counsel at the Innocence Project won the exoneration of a pro bono client, Norberto Peets, who was wrongfully incarcerated for a shooting in the Bronx 26 years ago. Peets, who has always maintained his innocence, was exonerated following the filing of an Article 78 petition before the New York Appellate Division. Paul, Weiss spearheaded the petition, which prompted the trial court to dismiss the case.

Peets was arrested 26 years ago. Separate investigations by the Innocence Project and the Bronx District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit found that Peets’ trial attorney had not adequately investigated his case, had overlooked key evidence and had failed to present exculpatory evidence to the jury. Based on these findings, and with the DA’s consent, the Innocence Project filed a motion to vacate. In September 2022, the court vacated Peets’ convictions.

Peets was released from prison, but four months later—without a motion or request by either party—the judge decided to vacate his prior order and reinstate Peets’ convictions. The Innocence Project immediately reached out to Paul, Weiss for assistance, and we took the lead on drafting and filing an Article 78 petition in the Appellate Division.

Our petition argued that the sua sponte reversal by the judge was unprecedented and completely unsupported by any case law or New York rule of criminal procedure. We argued that the Appellate Division had to step in to correct this judicial abuse of power as well as the infringement on the DA’s discretion, as the DA had decided not to prosecute our client’s case.

Shortly before Judge Ralph Fabrizio’s response to our Article 78 Petition was due, he contacted the Innocence Project and the District Attorney to say that he was prepared to dismiss the case in its entirety. At the May 9 hearing, the judge dismissed and sealed the case.

In an interview outside the courthouse, Peets told THE CITY that he was looking forward to getting to know his children and grandchildren better. “‘I wanted to play ball with my grandson. We started playing ball the other day,’ Peets said, grinning as his family members and legal team stood with him outside the Bronx Hall of justice,” THE CITY reported.

The Paul, Weiss team was led by litigation associates Robyn Bernstein and Robert Klein, and corporate associate Jessica Fong. The team was supervised by litigation partner Audra Soloway and counsel Aaron Delaney.

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