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January 18, 2007
WASHINGTON, DC, January 18, 2007 — In two death penalty cases pending in trial courts in Alabama and Mississippi, Covington clients obtained significant relief, in one case securing a ruling overturning a murder conviction and death sentence and in another case securing a new capital sentencing trial. The cases both involved evidentiary hearings and were venued, respectively, in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, Alabama, and the Circuit Court for Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. The decisions were handed down on December 29, 2006 and January 12, 2007.
The Alabama case concerned Larry Smith, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1994 robbery and murder. In 2001, Covington filed habeas papers challenging his conviction, alleging ineffective assistance by his trial counsel. After a three-day hearing, the court ruled that "but for the ineffective assistance of Mr. Smith's [trial] counsel, the outcome of Mr. Smith's trial might well have been different." Accordingly, the court ordered that Smith be granted a new trial.
The Mississippi case involves Cory Maye, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 shooting of a police officer that occurred during a narcotics task force search of Maye's home the night after Christmas. Mr. Maye, who had no prior arrests or convictions, testified at his trial that he did not realize it was the police who were breaking into his home, and that he fired in self defense at what he thought was an intruder. The firm began representing Maye in February 2006 in connection with post-trial motions. After evidentiary hearings before the judge who presided over Mr. Maye's trial, the court vacated the jury's sentence of death, based on a finding that the original trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance during the sentencing phase of the trial. The firm continues to represent Maye in preparation for a potential new sentencing hearing, and in appealing the conviction.
The Covington team on the Alabama case includes Keith Teel, John Fuson, Jeremiah Williams, and Burth Lopez, along with former Covington associate James Hanlon and Alabama co-counsel Brian White. The Mississippi team includes Covington lawyers Michael Labson, Benjamin Vernia, Abram Pafford, Jessica Gabel, and James Sullivan, along with Mississippi co-counsel Bob Evans.