Hogan Lovells trial team wins Public Justice 2022 Trial Lawyer of the Year award for pro bono work in wrongful conviction case

Hogan Lovells trial team wins Public Justice ‘2022 Trial Lawyer of the Year’ award for pro bono work in wrongful conviction case

Awards & rankings | 21 July 2022

Washington, D.C., 21 July 2022 – Public Justice has recognized a Hogan Lovells trial team with its 2022 Trial Lawyer of the Year award for their work to secure the largest wrongful conviction verdict in U.S. history on behalf of two brothers who were sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit, spending 31 years in prison.

The ‘Trial Lawyer of the Year’ award was presented during the Public Justice 40th Annual Gala & Awards Presentation in Seattle. Secretary Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker.

The Hogan Lovells trial team was led by global Head of the firm’s Litigation, Arbitration, and Employment practice, Des Hogan; co-head of the firm’s appellate practice, Cate Stetson; and senior associate David Maxwell, with support from many associates and paralegals. They were recognized by Public Justice for securing a US$75 million jury verdict, later increased to a landmark US$111 million award, on behalf of brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.

McCollum and Brown were teenagers when they were accused of committing a brutal rape and murder in 1983. They were only released from prison in 2014 after DNA evidence uncovered by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission proved that a serial rapist and murderer, not the brothers, had committed the crime.

Following their release, the brothers filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina against officers from the Red Springs, North Carolina Police Department, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), for wrongful incarceration. The brothers alleged that the officers and government entities violated their due process rights by coercing them into giving false confessions and fabricating evidence against them, while withholding exculpatory evidence.

Just before closing arguments, Hogan Lovells’ trial team obtained a US$9 million settlement with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office defendants. On 14 May 2021, the team secured a US$75 million jury verdict against the State Bureau of Investigation agents. The court later granted the brothers prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees, increasing the award to more than US$111 million, the largest wrongful conviction award in U.S. history.

The case is McCollum et al. v. Robeson County et al. More about the legal team’s efforts is here. This case was covered by our ‘Proof in Trial’ podcast here.

More information about Public Justice’s award is here.