Three Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr attorneys were featured in an hour-long ESPN documentary that premiered Thursday evening about a pro bono client wrongly imprisoned for 26 years for a murder he did not commit.
Pater Macdonald, Ross Firsenbaum and Shauna Friedman, partner, counsel and senior associate, respectively, of the firm's New York office, appeared in the ESPN documentary 26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story. Firsenbaum and Friedman took lead on the case. Macdonald supervised the team.
Bozella’s case was referred to the Wilmer attorneys by the Innocence Project, and almost immediately Firsenbaum had doubts about the case. “Reading the trial transcripts, it was astounding that someone in the United States could be convicted on the absence of any evidence that was credible,” he said in an interview.
Firsenbaum and Friedman earned Bozella his freedom in October 2009, but not before Bozella had spent 26 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit. The two attorneys, for whom it was their first criminal case, found evidence that the people’s witnesses had lied and that another suspect confessed to the murder. All this evidence was concealed by the prosecution.
But throughout those 26 years, Bozella never gave up hope that his name would be cleared. He had always dreamed of fighting in a professional boxing match, a dream he never let go. It was this story of determination, Firsenbaum said, that lured ESPN.
The team is continuing to represent Bozella in a pro bono civil case seeking compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. The film will re-air tonight on ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. The trailer for the film is posted below.
“When I see myself on TV, what I’m happy about is that it’s part of him being able to tell his story,” Firsenbaum said. “It means that message of never give up is being shared with others.”