August 23, 2023
On July 31, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Joshua Stewart, who argued that he had been convicted based on a post‑arrest confession obtained as a result of deceptive police interrogation tactics. Cravath, working on a pro bono basis, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Innocence Project in support of Mr. Stewart’s appeal.
In 2016, Mr. Stewart was convicted on three counts of armed robbery and sentenced to 23 to 46 years in prison. The state alleged that Mr. Stewart aided and abetted two other men in two armed robberies by serving as the getaway driver after he drove one of the shooters to the hospital in the vehicle used in the robberies. Mr. Stewart, who was 18 years old at the time, was questioned for three hours into the early morning, during which he repeatedly denied involvement in the robberies. However, after the police falsely told Mr. Stewart that there was evidence implicating him in the robberies and suggested to him that he would be treated leniently if he confessed, he told the officers that he was the driver of the getaway vehicle, providing the state with the principal evidence on which he was convicted.
Mr. Stewart moved to suppress his post-arrest statements prior to his trial on the basis that the statements were involuntary for several reasons, including the deceptive interrogation techniques. The trial court denied Mr. Stewart’s motion, and he was convicted at trial. On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals also rejected his arguments that the statements were involuntary.
In 2022, Mr. Stewart filed an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court. Working in conjunction with the Innocence Project's Strategic Litigation Department, Cravath filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Innocence Project in support of Mr. Stewart’s appeal, arguing that Mr. Stewart’s interrogation should be found to be involuntary and inadmissible. In particular, the brief argued that since Mr. Stewart was only 18 years old when he was arrested and questioned, he was at higher risk for falsely confessing because of coercive interrogation tactics. The brief detailed the psychological research about the coercive nature of deceptive interrogation tactics, such as “false evidence ploys” and false promises of leniency, and how these lead to higher risks of false confessions, particularly in young adults. It also urged the Court to issue a ruling that would significantly curb the use of such tactics in the future.
The Michigan Supreme Court relied on these risk factors in support of its decision reversing the Court of Appeals decision and remanding the case for a new trial. The Court held that the totality of the circumstances of Mr. Stewart’s interrogation, including his age, the timing of the interrogation, the promises of leniency, and the use of deception created an environment where Mr. Stewart’s free will was compromised and the statements he gave were involuntary and thus inadmissible at trial.
The Cravath team included partner Benjamin Gruenstein and associate Caitlin J. Bailey. Mila Gauvin II and Paula Zampietro also worked on the matter.
The case is People v. Stewart, No. 162497 (Mich. July 31, 2023).
Deals & Cases
September 21, 2023
On September 19, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a district court’s order denying class certification to all children who are or will be in the custody of New York City’s foster care system. Cravath, working on a pro bono basis, represents the putative class alongside co‑counsel at A Better Childhood (“ABC”).
Deals & Cases
June 27, 2023
On May 15, 2023, the New York City Department of Homeless Services (“DHS”) implemented a policy change, DHS‑PB‑2023‑006, altering the eligibility process for families seeking to stay in homeless shelters and ensuring such families are not turned away from shelter in a time of need. Cravath, working on a pro bono basis, partnered with the New York Legal Assistance Group to help secure this change, which followed a formal complaint, a demand letter shared with New York City and State officials and years of negotiation.
Deals & Cases
June 14, 2023
On March 29, 2023, the New York County Criminal Court granted Cravath’s motion to resentence pro bono client Tania Rodas under the Domestic Violence Survivors Act (“DVSJA”), securing her release. Ms. Rodas had been incarcerated since May 2017. She was originally sentenced in July 2019, pursuant to a plea agreement, to a 10‑year determinate sentence plus five years’ post‑release supervision, for first-degree manslaughter after killing her domestic partner, who had subjected her to a severe pattern of domestic abuse for over 11 years.
Deals & Cases
October 05, 2015
On September 16, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, sitting en banc, vacated defendant Jermel Lewis’s criminal sentence and remanded for resentencing in United States v. Lewis. On behalf of Amachi, Inc., a nonprofit organization that tutors children of prisoners, Cravath filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Mr. Lewis and argued before the en banc court.
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