Joel’s representation of noted “jailhouse lawyer” Jabbar Collins resulted in a highly unusual grant of federal habeas corpus relief on a murder conviction, after 16 years in prison, due to the prosecutor’s concealment of exculpatory evidence and illegal coercion of witnesses. The case, prominently covered in the news, helped lead to the 2013 defeat of Brooklyn DA Charles J. Hynes after 24 years in office, the election of reform candidate Ken Thompson, and the formation of Brooklyn’s widely praised Conviction Review Unit. The lawsuit proved pervasive misconduct by DA Hynes’s office, including the illegal imprisonment in airport motels of uncooperative witnesses. After getting Hynes to confess misconduct and Jabbar’s innocence during a videotaped deposition, Joel recovered $13 million for Jabbar in state and federal lawsuits. A federal judge, in an important decision, upheld Jabbar’s right to sue New York City for the disciplinary failures and other illegal practices of the Brooklyn DA’s Office under Charles Hynes. Collins v. City of New York, 923 F. Supp. 2d 462 (E.D.N.Y. 2013). The case was covered on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (see later WSJ coverage here and here), chronicled in the New York Times (e.g., here, here, here, and here) and New York Daily News (here, here, and here), and also covered in ProPublica, among other outlets.
Danny Colon & Anthony Ortiz
Representing Danny Colon, Joel convinced a state judge at a hearing on a 440 motion to find that a Manhattan prosecutor had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, but the judge declined to vacate the double-murder conviction. However, Joel successfully appealed to the New York Court of Appeals and won an unanimous decision reversing Danny’s conviction. People v. Colon, 13 N.Y.3d 343 (2009). Joel then convinced the Manhattan DA’s Office to dismiss the indictment without a retrial and, suing New York City for misconduct by the DA’s Office, recovered $9 million in damages for Danny and his co-defendant, Anthony Ortiz, in 2014. Their story was covered by the New York Times (here and here), the New York Daily News, and the New York Post, among other news outlets.
Joel agreed to a federal judge’s request that he handle Julio Negron’s federal habeas petition pro bono. Returning to state court to pursue a new Brady claim, Joel filed a 440 motion, and then two appeals, before finally convincing the New York Court of Appeals to overturn Julio’s attempted murder conviction because of misconduct by the prosecutor and errors by Julio’s trial attorney. People v. Negron, 26 N.Y.3d 262 (2015). He then convinced the trial judge, in 2017, to dismiss the indictment because the same prosecutor had obtained the original indictment fraudulently. The firm is currently handling Julio’s civil rights and unjust conviction lawsuits.
The Bronx Five
During the 1980s, a national hysteria arose over mostly false allegations of sexual abuse at daycare centers across the country. There were five highly-publicized such prosecutions and convictions in the Bronx, resulting in sentences ranging from 25 to 90 years. Joel won the freedom, and the dismissal of all charges, for four of the defendants, and the precedent he established in the New York Court of Appeals led to the fifth defendant’s case being dismissed, too. Joel’s work on these cases was covered by the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times (here, here, and here), DemocracyNow!, and Newsday, among other outlets.
First, Joel won freedom for Franklin Beauchamp, convincing New York’s highest court that the indictment was defective and unfair. People v. Beauchamp, 74 N.Y.2d 639 (1989).
Then, Joel won freedom for Jesus Torres, arguing, in a 440 motion, that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to challenge a similar indictment on the same ground.
Next, for Alberto Ramos, Joel won a 440 motion after proving that the prosecutor had suppressed evidence showing that the rape case against Ramos had been fabricated. Joel defeated the prosecution’s appeal. Later, in a groundbreaking civil rights lawsuit, Joel proved that the prosecutor’s misconduct had been caused by the unlawful policies of the Bronx DA and recovered $5 million from New York City, at the time the largest such recovery ever in New York State. See Ramos v. City of New York, 285 A.D.2d 284 (1st Dep’t 2001).
Finally, Joel won federal habeas corpus relief for the Reverend Nathaniel T. Grady, Jr., a prominent civil rights leader falsely convicted of rape. Grady v. Artuz, 931 F. Supp. 1048 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Reverend Grady was freed after ten unspeakable years in prison and all charges were dismissed.