Orrick Litigation Team Exposes Injustice in Hard-Fought Habeas Case

March.22.2013

​After nine years of litigation, 42 days of evidentiary hearings and three days of closing arguments, an Orrick litigation team has secured a significant victory for pro bono client Terrence Prince, who has spent the last 33 years in jail. In granting his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the Court concluded that Mr. Prince had been deprived of his right to a fair trial when the state suppressed evidence that, if disclosed, would in reasonable probability have resulted in a different verdict for Mr. Prince. The decision provides Mr. Prince with the opportunity for the fair trial he never received.

Mr. Prince was tried and convicted for the 1980 attempted robbery and homicide of a small store owner. During his trial, the State of California suppressed evidence of the existence of a witness and statements she made to police immediately following the crime. The Court concluded that the suppressed evidence would have allowed Mr. Prince and his defense: (i) to cross-examine and impeach the eyewitnesses to the crime and, in turn, cast doubt that he participated in the robbery/shooting, and (ii) to present evidence that he was not the shooter, thereby eliminating the special circumstance charge that resulted in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Our team's investigation showed that the witness had given two statements—both were absent from the defense's file at the time of trial. Mr. Prince was convicted and sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

The case came to us through former partner Melinda Haag, who became acquainted with Mr. Prince through a case she was prosecuting. In 2007, we filed the habeas petition for Mr. Prince and began the investigation on his behalf. It is extremely rare that habeas cases receive the relief that was granted to Mr. Prince, and we could not be more pleased with the outcome.

Through the years, a number of our lawyers and professional staff, along with outside counsel, investigators and others, have worked tirelessly to expose the injustice that occurred during Mr. Prince's first trial. Katherine Ikeda led the case from the time it came to the firm in 2004. The most recent team included Walt Brown, Mark Mermelstein, Mary Kelly Persyn, Sharon Frase, Lacey Bangle, Harry Moren, Sha Borkowski and Michael O'Hara.