Pro bono win in New York Court of Appeals on issue of first impression
On February 9, 2023, Davis Polk and the Legal Aid Society secured a victory on behalf of our client, Oscar Sanders, as the New York Court of Appeals reversed a judgement by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division and ordered a new trial in the case of People v. Oscar Sanders.
In January 2018, Mr. Sanders was sentenced by the trial court to a term of 15 years to life in prison. After the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division affirmed the judgment, Davis Polk sought leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. Following briefing, Davis Polk associate Chase McReynolds argued the appeal before the Court of Appeals on January 5, 2023.
In what the team believes is an issue of first impression nationwide, an opinion written by Judge Rivera held that the trial court violated Mr. Sanders’s due process rights by restraining him without formal explanation when the jury announced its verdict. In addition to securing a new trial for our client, the decision reaffirms the longstanding constitutional prohibition against shackling criminal defendants during the guilt phase of trial in the absence of a special need, and for the first time expressly applies that prohibition to the verdict reading and jury polling.
The Davis Polk team, which was advised by the Legal Aid Society, includes Chief Pro Bono Counsel Amelia T.R. Starr, senior counsel Sharon Katz, partner Michael Flynn, associates Lesley Chen, Chris Combs, Chase McReynolds and Jessica Simonelli, and former associates Alex Bystryn and Ina Dogani.