Foley & Lardner LLP attorneys Michael Matthews and Larry Dougherty secured a new trial for pro bono client Joseph Bearden. The Florida Supreme Court agreed Thursday with Matthews and Dougherty that the trial court improperly excluded a confession that was key evidence for Bearden’s defense. Bearden is currently serving a life sentence in Florida prison on disputed charges of being present at the scene of a murder. The Court held that the trial judge improperly evaluated the credibility of a key witness’ testimony, wrongly decided that Bearden’s statement was not adequate corroboration for another suspect’s confession under the U.S. Supreme Court case of Chambers v. Mississippi
, and improperly prevented Bearden from cross-examining the other suspect. After being appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to represent Bearden pro bono, Matthews and Dougherty led a Foley team that included the late John Hamilton, Natasha Dorsey, Chris Griffin, Nick Williams, and Robin Ferriss. All told, more than a dozen Foley & Lardner attorneys, paralegals, and researchers logged a thousand hours on the case that resulted in Thursday’s ruling.
The text of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling can be found here
A video of Matthews’ and Dougherty’s argument in front of the Florida Supreme Court can be found here