Insights
Firm News

Ninth Circuit Grants Re-Trial for Death Row Inmate

August 4, 2020 Announcement

Court rules prosecutor engaged in unconstitutional racial discrimination during jury selection.

Farella Braun + Martel’s Pro Bono Program has won another significant victory for Marvin Pete Walker Jr., one of the longest-serving inmates on California’s death row, with the Ninth Circuit ruling on July 31 that the prosecutor had engaged in unconstitutional racial discrimination by striking all three Black jurors, and then giving demonstrably false reasons for why he did it.

The court held that this overcame the “high bar to relief,” finding it was “objectively unreasonable” for the California Supreme Court to have rejected the racial discrimination claim. “In sum, the record reveals that the prosecutor mischaracterized the views of all three black potential jurors, adopted disparate lines of questioning for black and nonblack jurors, and cited reasons for striking the black jurors that applied equally to nonblack jurors who were left on the jury.” The court has ordered the Santa Clara District Attorney to either re-try the case or release Walker. Read the opinion, here.

The pro bono effort on behalf of Walker has spanned over 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 on December 14, 2018 when U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton 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. With the death penalty off the table, Farella filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on the Batson racial discrimination claim.

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 Douglas Young, were appointed by the court to represent Walker in challenging his conviction and death sentence. 

Farella lawyers on the matter include Douglas Young and Tom Mayhew with assistance from Alex Reese, Elizabeth Dorsi, Hilary Krase, Erik Monek Anderson, and paralegal Tony Allen; and former colleagues Racheal Turner, David Ismay, David Phillips, Patrice Harper, and Chloe Kim. Nanci Clarence of Clarence, Dyer & Cohen served as co-counsel.

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 Braun + Martel is a leading Northern California law firm representing corporate and private clients in sophisticated business transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. Clients seek our imaginative legal solutions and the dynamism and intellectual creativity of our lawyers. We are headquartered in San Francisco and maintain offices in the Napa Valley that are focused on the wine industry.

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

Firm Highlights

News

Nevada Links Wins Summary Judgment Motion in Case Brought by United States

Northern California legal powerhouse Farella Braun + Martel successfully defended Nevada Links, Inc., the owner of a championship golf course in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a $100 million lawsuit brought by the United States...

Read More
News

Farella Advises 10x Genomics on Purchase of Retail Center Site

Northern California legal powerhouse Farella Braun + Martel represented Pleasanton-based biotech company 10x Genomics in its purchase of a 14.6-acre former shopping center site in Pleasanton at 1701 Springdale Ave., where it plans to...

Read More
Publication

New Round of PPP Loans: What Nonprofits Need to Know

Matt Lewis and Julie Treppa discuss "New Round of PPP Loans: What Nonprofits Need to Know."  The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a lifeline for nonprofits and other businesses that are struggling to survive during...

Read More
Publication

Data Center Business Deals Gone Bad, and the Risks of the “Known in the Industry” Defense

Exploring business partnerships often involves or even requires sharing highly confidential and even trade secret information. The data center industry is no exception, and its participants have in recent years faced litigation focused around...

Read More
Event

17th Annual Western Boot Camp on Environmental Law

Linda Sobczynski is a featured panelist at the 17th Annual Western Boot Camp on Environmental Law virtual program. Details: Join us for a stimulating three-day immersion in environmental law at Western Boot Camp. Designed for new...

Read More
News

Jeffrey Hamilton Named a 2021 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellow

Read More
Event

Finalized Cost Benefit Rule Under Clean Air Act: Significant Regulatory Actions vs. Materially Adverse Effects

Buzz Hines is a panelist on this Strafford live webinar, "Finalized Cost Benefit Rule Under Clean Air Act: Significant Regulatory Actions vs. Materially Adverse Effects." Details: This CLE webinar will address the final rule...

Read More
Publication

Pandemic Restriction Challenges Face Uphill Battle in California

On Dec.16, 2020, in Midway Venture LLC v. County of San Diego, the San Diego Superior Court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of two COVID-19-related California public health restrictions as applied to two adult entertainment businesses...

Read More
Event

Bisnow Digital Summit: California Opportunity Zones Update

Julie Treppa will be speaking at Bisnow's Digital Summit: California Opportunity Zones Update virtual program, "An Update on Opportunity Zones Today." Details: How will the Biden administration change the OZ program? Did the pandemic sideline...

Read More
Publication

Cannabis and Hemp-Derived Products Subject to New Proposition 65 Warning Requirements in California

California’s regulatory framework for cannabis and hemp-derived products, including CBD, continues to evolve, most recently via updated Proposition 65 warning requirements that came into full effect Jan. 3, 2021. As of that date, anyone...

Read More