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The National Law Journal Names Ropes & Gray to its Pro Bono Hot List

Practices: Litigation Tags: Pro Bono

The National Law Journal honored Ropes & Gray on its 2017 Pro Bono Hot List, recognizing the firm for winning a motion for a new trial for George Perrot, who had been wrongfully imprisoned for 30 years. The firm secured Mr. Perrot’s release in 2016 using the FBI’s admission that its forensic expert provided flawed hair analysis testimony in Mr. Perrot’s two criminal trials.

Mr. Perrot’s case represents the first time a court has granted a new trial based on the FBI’s admitted errors in its hair comparison analysis at trial without also having DNA analysis to corroborate the exoneration. Long before Ropes & Gray became involved in Mr. Perrot’s case, the hair evidence in the case had been lost or destroyed. This meant DNA analysis of hair samples, a typical practice in efforts to seek a new trial, was not an option. The FBI hair comparison testimony had been critical to Mr. Perrot’s initial conviction, particularly since the victim consistently insisted that Mr. Perrot could not have been her attacker.

Prior to Mr. Perrot’s successful release, the FBI had begun an audit of its hair analysis testimony in old cases, and Ropes & Gray pushed the FBI to expedite its audit of Mr. Perrot’s case specifically, making it one of the first in the nation to be reviewed for errors. Mr. Perrot’s trial team, which included the Innocence Project and the Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program, then introduced at an evidentiary hearing the findings of the audit and independent expert testimony about the significant and recent changes in the scientific community’s understanding of the limits of hair comparison analysis.

As a direct result of Ropes & Gray’s efforts, Mr. Perrot was released from prison after serving 30 years. As this was the first case to achieve this result based on erroneous hair comparison analysis without having DNA analysis to corroborate an exoneration, Ropes & Gray was recognized by The National Law Journal and other national media for creating a roadmap that other defendants in similar situations may follow.

Ropes & Gray has a long, proud tradition of pro bono work and has received global recognition for its efforts. In recent months, Law360 named Ropes & Gray as a “Pro Bono Firm of the Year,” and Chambers & Partners selected the firm as a “Pro Bono Program of the Year” at its annual Chambers Diversity Awards. Read more about our global efforts at our dedicated pro bono site.

The Ropes & Gray team representing Mr. Perrot includes government enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer and associates Christopher Walsh, Yana Grishkan, Megan McFadden and Annie Hancock. Government enforcement partner Jim Dowden, former government enforcement partner Steve Braga, associate David Young, and former associates Nicholas Perros and Sue Dyer were also instrumental in handling Mr. Perrot’s litigation.