HOUSTON, Oct. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Brian W. Stolarz, an Alexandria, Va.-based partner in national law firm LeClairRyan, was honored on October 27 at the Texas Defender Service's third annual Light of Justice luncheon.
The organization is dedicated to ensuring fair and equitable legal proceedings in capital cases, regardless of a defendant's ability to pay for an attorney. Stolarz and a team of attorneys he worked with were recognized for their representation that led to the release of Texas death-row inmate Alfred Dewayne Brown and for legislative reform spurred by the case that changed the Texas grand jury selection process.
"I am honored that the Texas Defender Service recognized our legal team's efforts to secure justice for Alfred Dewayne Brown," said Stolarz, who leads LeClairRyan's Compliance, Investigations and White Collar team and focuses on white collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and other matters. "We will continue to support Texas Defender Service's advocacy for people facing a death sentence and its work exposing the flaws plaguing the Texas death penalty."
Stolarz was honored at the luncheon along with co-counsel, David T. Case of K&L Gates LLP; Casey Kaplan (a former K&L Gates associate who is now Assistant General Counsel, Litigation and Investigations at Nike); Bethany Nikfar (a former K&L Gates associate who is now a Senior Attorney at the United States Government Accountability Office); and Megan R. Whisler (a former K&L Gates associate who is now an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP).
Since 2007, Stolarz and the other attorneys worked to overturn the murder conviction (State of Texas vs. Alfred Dewayne Brown, 351st District Court of Harris County, Texas, Case No. 1035159) that placed Brown on Death Row after he was convicted, along with two others, of killing a Houston police officer during a robbery. New evidence — including recantations from critical witnesses, and exculpatory evidence, specifically land-line phone records, which were located in a Houston Police Detective's home garage and not turned over to the defense at trial--demonstrated that Brown was innocent of the offense.
A new trial was ordered in November 2014 (The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas—No. WR-68,876-01) and Brown was released on June 8, 2015 after the Harris County District Attorney dismissed the charges against him. "The District Attorney made the right decision in this case," Stolarz said. "In June, Alfred Dewayne Brown walked out of prison as a free man for the first time since 2003."
Stolarz and his co-counsels also highlighted abuse in the state's grand jury selection process and the grand jury's treatment of witnesses, and a series of news articles that followed spurred the Texas legislature to mandate changes.
"Prior to this case, Texas was the only state where sitting judges could select commissioners who, in turn, picked individuals to sit on a grand jury," explained Stolarz. "This 'pick-a-pal' system was ripe for abuse. Following an outcry, the system was amended and grand jurors are now picked at random."
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