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Pro Bono Client Released After Serving 36 Years in Prison

Blank Rome and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project are pleased to share that our client, William Bailey, has been released from prison after serving 36 years following a wrongful conviction.

In 1988, when he was 30 years old, Mr. Bailey was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, Mr. Bailey always maintained his innocence. He had no prior criminal record and is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran who has remained active in veterans’ services while incarcerated.

Over the past three decades, Mr. Bailey has been deprived of his right to see his children and grandchildren grow up, as well as the opportunity to be present and then grieve for his son, who passed away while Mr. Bailey was incarcerated. He also missed taking part in family events such as graduations, marriages, and births.

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project first started reviewing Mr. Bailey’s case in 2012 and enlisted Blank Rome to help with the matter in 2018. Over the years, the team has pored over decades-old court and police files and found very little evidence supported the conviction. The only eyewitness to identify Mr. Bailey has consistently disavowed his trial testimony in the ensuing decades. The only other piece of evidence, the investigating detective's testimony about Mr. Bailey's alleged confession, was uncorroborated. In fact, during our joint investigation, the prosecution turned over police paperwork documenting only that Mr. Bailey gave an exculpatory statement during his post-arrest interview.

Blank Rome and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project worked together to draft Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act and federal Habeas petitions based on the unlawful suppression of exculpatory evidence and asked the Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”) at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to review the case. The team has worked collaboratively with the CIU as it investigated the case, including traveling throughout the Philadelphia area to interview various witnesses.

The Commonwealth agreed that Mr. Bailey is at a minimum entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claims related to the suppressed exculpatory evidence. However, given the uncertainty of such a hearing, the Commonwealth agreed to resolve the pending litigation whereby Mr. Bailey would be granted a new trial with the support of the Commonwealth in exchange for Mr. Bailey entering a negotiated Alford plea in the same judicial proceeding. In this type of plea proceeding, the defendant maintains his innocence but voluntarily accepts a conviction and the related punishment.

On April 4, 2024, Mr. Bailey entered an Alford plea, was re-sentenced to confinement with credit for time served, and was subsequently released from prison later that day.

“We are thrilled that Mr. Bailey is home with his family where he belongs,” said Nilam A. Sanghvi, Legal Director at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. “This case highlights one of the things that so many innocent people grapple with that does not get a lot of attention—the difficult choice to accept a plea rather than face the uncertainties of litigation. It was a difficult choice for Mr. Bailey to agree to a plea, but we support his decision to choose a surer path to freedom.”

“We are overjoyed that Mr. Bailey has been released and can return home,” said Lauren E. O’Donnell, partner and co-chair of Blank Rome’s General Litigation group. “Pro bono service is a cornerstone of our culture at Blank Rome and we are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with nonprofit organizations like the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to advocate for wrongfully convicted prisoners and help those innocent people, like Mr. Bailey, transition to freedom.”  

The Blank Rome team representing Mr. Bailey included partners Lauren E. O’Donnell and Huaou Yan, and associates Robert M. Shinehouse and Naomi Zwillenberg

For more information on Mr. Bailey, visit the Pennsylvania Innocence Project:

Mr. Bailey on April 4, 2024.
L to R: Blanca Castro, Bobby Shinehouse, Nilam Sanghvi, Mr. Bailey, Naomi Zwillenberg, and Huaou Yan