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Stradley Ronon Team Secures Release of Wrongfully Convicted Man After 41 Years in Prison

October 26, 2023
Firm News

Stradley Ronon Team Secures Release of Wrongfully Convicted Man After 41 Years in Prison

PHILADELPHIA – After spending more than four decades in prison, a 63-year-old man wrongly convicted of murder has been released with the help of a dedicated team of Stradley Ronon lawyers. Sentenced to life on charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy and robbery at age 22, Bruce Murray had been fighting for his innocence since 1982. His release this month after 41 years in custody represents a resounding victory for the Stradley Ronon team, led by partner Michael J. Engle.

“We are extremely happy for Bruce and his family, although this eventual victory came at a very high price for our client,” Engle said. “While we are thrilled to see Bruce free, we are saddened that it took over four decades for him to receive some measure of justice. Fortunately, the current administration of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office valued transparency throughout this process, making it possible for us to secure relief for Mr. Murray.”

The approximately three-year effort to obtain relief for Murray began after a U.S. district judge requested that Engle take on a special court appointment to examine Murray’s pro se filing, which claimed actual innocence. As part of their extensive investigation — including gaining access for the first time to both the Philadelphia Police Department and District Attorney’s Office files on the matter — Engle and the team were able to submit a motion seeking to reinstate Murray’s habeas corpus rights in federal court.

In response to the strong filing, the District Attorney’s Office conceded it satisfied the actual innocence standard and the district court granted the motion, allowing the team to file a petition seeking to vacate Murray’s conviction and secure him a new trial. Ultimately, the court granted relief on numerous distinct Brady violations, vacated the convictions and ordered a new trial.

Upon remand of the case to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Engle and partner Ashley E. Shapiro, co-chairs of the firm’s pro bono committee, advocated to the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the charges pending against Murray because he was likely innocent and it was not ethical or practical to attempt a retrial in this case. To the credit of the District Attorney’s Office, after careful review by the prosecutor, the charges were withdrawn against Murray. He has been released from state prison and is now enjoying his newfound freedom with his family.

Engle has more than 20 years of experience handling complex criminal cases, internal investigations and compliance matters. He serves as co-chair of the white-collar defense, internal investigations and corporate compliance practice, where he represents individuals, public officials and professionals, public and private companies of all sizes, nonprofits and other organizations in federal and state courts throughout the country.

Shapiro represents clients on white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations and corporate compliance matters. She has significant experience both at federal and state levels across many jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. She also handles civil litigation matters, including the defense of False Claims Act/qui tam actions.

Stradley Ronon has a longstanding tradition of serving not only our clients but the communities in which we work and live. The firm’s pro bono program offers lawyers the opportunity to routinely represent low-income, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged people on a variety of issues, including civil rights, employment, property and custody.

About Stradley Ronon
Counseling clients since 1926, Stradley Ronon has helped private and public companies – from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations – achieve their goals by providing pragmatic, value-driven legal counsel. With offices in eight strategic locations, our responsive team of more than 200 attorneys seamlessly addresses the full spectrum of our clients’ needs, ranging from sophisticated corporate transactions to complex commercial litigation.

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