Death Row Inmate’s Petition for Habeas Corpus Granted After Thirty-Year Pro Bono Fight

December 19, 2018 Announcement

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 19, 2018: Following legal efforts spanning 30 years, Farella Braun + Martel’s Pro Bono Program has won a significant victory for one of its clients, securing a writ of habeas corpus and dismissal of all remaining claims for Marvin Pete Walker Jr., one of the longest serving inmates on California’s death row. (Case No. 94-cv-01997-PJH)

The pro bono effort spanned three decades and included two trips to the Supreme Court of California, an earlier appeal to the Ninth Circuit and years of district court litigation. The effort cleared a major hurdle toward saving Walker’s life when U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton on Dec. 14 issued an order granting Walker’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court found that the penalty phase of Walker’s trial violated his constitutional rights because he was not provided effective assistance of counsel, and that the California Supreme Court was unreasonable in its 2004 ruling denying Walker’s claims.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision. Whatever you think of the death penalty, it’s unfair to have a trial where trial counsel does not investigate and prepare a defense on the penalty phase,” said co-lead counsel Tom Mayhew, a partner at Farella Braun + Martel.

Walker was sentenced to death in 1980 by a jury in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County for the 1979 murder of Joseph Vasquez and wounding of two others in a liquor store holdup in San Jose. The death sentence was originally reversed by the California Supreme Court, but then reinstated after the 1986 election that changed the California Supreme Court’s composition. In 1989, lawyers at Farella, led at the time by Doug Young, were appointed by the court to represent Walker in challenging his conviction and death sentence.  

Since its inception, Farella Braun + Martel has maintained an active pro bono practice that includes death penalty habeas corpus cases. The firm does not limit the number of hours for which lawyers can receive credit for pro bono work, and associates are encouraged to further hone their advocacy and trial skills and serve the broader community by taking on pro bono opportunities.

Farella lawyers on the matter include partners Doug Young and Tom Mayhew with assistance from senior associate Alex Reese and former colleagues Racheal Turner, David Ismay and David Phillips. Nanci Clarence of Clarence, Dyer & Cohen served as co-counsel.

Farella Braun + Martel LLP is a leading Northern California law firm representing corporate and private clients in sophisticated business transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. Clients like our imaginative legal solutions and the dynamism and intellectual creativity of our lawyers. The attorneys in each practice group work cohesively in interdisciplinary teams to advance the clients’ objectives in the most effective, coordinated and efficient manner. Founded in 1962, we are headquartered in San Francisco and maintain an office in the Napa Valley that is focused on the wine industry.  

Cheryl Loof
Farella Braun + Martel LLP
415.954.4433 / [email protected]
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