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Deirdre Lynn O'Connor

Deirdre O'Connor’s Legal Cases

13 total


  • In Re Troy Davis

    Practice Area:
    Appeals
    Date:
    Aug 17, 2009
    Outcome:
    Petition Granted!
    Description:
    Troy Davis has been on Georgia's death row since 1991 despite strong evidence of innocence. He was convicted of a 1989 shooting death of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, GA. Since his trial, 7 of the 9 civilian witnesses against Troy have signed sworn affidavits stating that they were pressured by police to implicate Troy Davis. Many others have come forward implicating another man in the shooting. I learned about the case on July 3, 2007 while serving as Director of the Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic at Emory Law School. I was asked to help by simply writing a letter to the parole board. The more I read about the case, the more obligated I felt. My pro bono work on this case, thus far, has included writing several amicus briefs to the GA and US Supreme Courts, participating in a public grassroots advocacy campaign, and networking with the criminal defense bar and the innocence community to encourage their participation. This case should be particularly troubling to all because it highlights the unique vulnerabilities of the indigent and the systemic failure to protect the innocent in our criminal justice system. The trial and post-conviction records reveal a less than zealous defense team at trial. There was minimal pretrial investigation, no eyewitness expert testimony presented or other means to educate the jurors about the dangers of misidentification or false snitch testimony. The prosecutor's zeal and superior oratory skills won out over reason. The result is a conviction and a death sentence based on highly unreliable evidence - false snitch testimony and sketchy eyewitness identification testimony. For instance, one witness was standing over 160 feet away looking into a dimly lit parking lot at four male strangers, all of the same race and general age group, as they moved quickly about the parking lot for a few seconds before fleeing the scene. Another identified Troy at trial two years later despite the fact that he could not identify the shooter on the night of the shooting or one month later. Troy's early post-conviction appeals - a critical stage in death penalty cases - suffered a devastating blow when federal funding was slashed, which left Troy virtually unrepresented from 1991 through 1996. In the meantime, with his life hanging in the balance, court after court refused to provide him relief. Troy was scheduled to die on July 17, 2007, September 23, 2008, September 29, 2008, and October 27, 2008. Each time, he narrowly escaped death, once with only 90 minutes to spare before the lethal injection. Because there are so many people committed to the cause, I am confident that Troy will find justice and walk out of Jackson prison one day. In the meantime, I continue to do whatever I can to help because there are many more people like Troy, imprisoned, some sentenced to die, for crimes that they did not commit. I believe our justice system is defined by our response to our mistakes. Until we figure out an effective way to identify and protect the innocent, we are all in jeopardy. For more information about this case, please visit www.innocencematters.us and www.freetroydavis.com
  • Child Eyewitness Case

    Practice Area:
    Criminal Defense
    Date:
    Mar 03, 1998
    Outcome:
    Not guilty
    Description:
    Mr. B. was a homeless man charged with residential burglary based on the eyewitness identification of two young children (7 and 9) who were awoken late at night to the sound of their barking dog. When the children (both Hispanic) looked at their bedroom window, they believed that they saw the face of a black man who was trying to enter their room. Their screams caused the man to run away and their parents to rush to their aid. The parents called the landlord, who then called the police. The police arrived a few minutes later and found Mr. B. walking across the street at a brisk pace. The police detained Mr. B and brought him to the front door of the house. The children identified Mr. B as the man outside their window. After extensive investigation of the crime scene, interviewing all witnesses, obtaining critical documentation regarding timing of police arrival, consultation with expert witnesses, and thorough trial preparation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. (Note: Date concluded is an approximation.)
  • A Present for Mama?

    Practice Area:
    Violent Crime
    Date:
    Sep 15, 1998
    Outcome:
    Not guilty
    Description:
    A few days after Mr. P's release from prison for an unrelated matter, he was charged with attempted robbery as a second strike. The offense was based on a female shop owner claim that she caught Mr. P trying to steal a teddy bear from her display table and when got caught he punched her in an effort to get away with the teddy bear. Mr. P. outweighed the woman by 100 lbs, but she had no visible injuries. The prosecution's theory was that Mr. P was trying to steal the teddy bear as a Mother's Day gift for his mother. After thorough investigation and trial preparation, the matter was tried in Los Angeles County. As a result, the jury acquitted Mr. P of robbery and the court dismissed the lesser-included misdemeanor petty theft charge.
  • Child Credibility (False Molestation Accusation)

    Practice Area:
    Criminal Defense
    Date:
    Aug 15, 2000
    Outcome:
    Not guilty all three counts
    Description:
    Client was falsely accused of three counts of child molestation. Trial preparation included investigation of alleged crime scene; criminal background checks of suspicious extended family members; video-taped demonstrative evidence showing that conditions at scene rendered reported events highly improbable; locating critical character witnesses; consultation with expert on child suggestibility and Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome; identification of internal police documents supporting defense theory of case; and developing proof of extended family member's malicious motivation to get child to falsely report crime. After presenting a full defense with several witnesses including the defendant, the jury acquitted Mr. J.B. of all counts. (Note: The date concluded is an approximation.)
  • Vindictive Ex-Wife Accused Client of Dometic Violence

    Practice Area:
    Domestic Violence
    Date:
    Nov 02, 2006
    Outcome:
    1st Trial Mistrial, 2nd Not guilty on all 6 counts
    Description:
    First clinic case at Emory Law School. I supervised two exceptionally talented students (now practicing lawyers) as they completed their first jury trial while in law school. Our first trial was declared a mistrial when we lost juror who hurt her ankle at home. Spoke to remaining jurors after mistrial - all indicated that they would have voted not guilty. Not guilty on all counts on retrial. For more information on student's tireless advocacy, please see http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2007/02/emory_law_schoo.html
  • Tempers Flare After Traffic Accident

    Practice Area:
    Criminal Defense
    Date:
    Feb 20, 2008
    Outcome:
    Not guilty all 3 counts
    Description:
    Clinic case. I supervised two extremely talented students as they tried their first jury trial. Client and another driver were involved in a fender bender. Tempers flared and client was charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of a telephone call. Lead student attorney Robyn Sonis and her partner student attorney Amy Leitch did a remarkable job prepping this case for trial. Ms. Sonis had been with the case for two semesters consistently exhibited nothing but incredible dedication to her client, all of which ultimately resulted in a well-deserved victory for the client and the defense team. Ms. Leitch's assistance was invaluable; she is to be commended for jumping in during the last few weeks to fill in for a missing student. For reasons that can't be disclosed here, this was clearly a victory which would not have happened but for their extraordinary advocacy and dedication to their client. These students fearlessness was nothing less than inspiring!
  • Drug Dealers Shoot It Out At Crowded Night Club

    Practice Area:
    Violent Crime
    Date:
    Mar 19, 2001
    Outcome:
    Hung jury on murder (6/6). Not guilty other cts.
    Description:
    Client charged with murder, attempted murder case, and two charges of assault with deadly weapon. W.W. stole several thousand dollars from a drug dealer. Subsequently, the two met by chance in crowded night club. Drug dealer drew his gun and started shooting. W.W. shot back in self-defense. W.W. and the drug dealer both sustained injuries, though the drug dealer got the worst of it. Additionally, one innocent victim was killed and two other innocent bystanders were shot but fully recovered. For reasons never explained, the police decide during their investigation that the drug dealer was the "victim" and W.W. was the aggressor. W.W. was prosecuted for all injuries sustained, while the drug dealer was never charged. Client was found not guilty of ADWs because we were able to prove that those victims were wounded from shots fired by the drug dealer. Client was found not guilty of attempted murder of drug dealer because we were able to establish client shot back in self-defense. Jury originally hung 11/1 in favor of acquittal on murder charge, but shifted to 6/6 during final two hours of deliberations. (Note: Date concluded is an approximation.)
  • Testilying Cop Uses Boiler Plate Police Report

    Practice Area:
    Criminal Defense
    Date:
    Dec 22, 1998
    Outcome:
    Not guilty on second strike drug case
    Description:
    Client was charged with possession of cocaine as a second strike. Investigation revealed that the cop arrested another man for the same charged 10 minutes before the client's arrest. When we pulled the police report for that other arrest, we noticed that the circumstances of each arrest were described in nearly verbatim fashion in the unrelated police reports. Client and the unrelated arrestee were both alleged to have been walking aimlessly in a high drug area admiring a small rock of cocaine that they carried in their extended left hand (palms up). Naturally, the cop could see the rock clearly from the passenger seat of his patrol car as it slowing drove by! But the coincidences don't stop there. According to both reports, both men reacted the exact same way when they saw the police. Both immediately clenched their left hand, dropped their beloved rock at the cop's feet and began to walk away! Not guilty.
  • Innocent Man Accused of Attempted Murder

    Practice Area:
    Violent Crime
    Date:
    Aug 03, 2009
    Outcome:
    Case dismissed
    Description:
    Client was away from home with family when a shooting occurred in front of his home. The complaining witness falsely accused client of being the shooter. Critical alibi evidence - video depicting client at another location at time of shooting - was forever lost due to the failure of police, investigators, and prior lawyers to subpoena the tape before its destruction. Through a determined and thorough investigation, Deirdre was ultimately able to destroy the government's case against the client. Deirdre had proof that complaining witness lied about several keys facts, that the police knew of the alternative suspect but refused to investigate his involvement, that the video was viewed before its destruction and would have exonerated the client. On the trial date, the case was dismissed.
  • 3rd Strike Vandalism

    Practice Area:
    Criminal Defense
    Date:
    Oct 28, 2009
    Outcome:
    3rd Strike felonies dismissed
    Description:
    Able to establish that the damage was minimal (under $400) and therefore vandalism could not be charged as felony. Second felony - gang allegation - was also dismissed along with strike priors. Client went from facing life sentence to receiving a time served deal on a misdemeanor!