Man Freed From Prison After Thirty Years, with Help of Willkie Farr Attorneys and Innocence Project
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Through the Innocence Project, a pair of attorneys with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Thomas Golden and Jeanna Composti, enabled a man wrongfully convicted of rape thirty years ago be set free just last week.

In 1981, Henry James was convicted raping a next-door neighbor at knifepoint, and imprisoned in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. On the date of his release, James had been imprisoned longer than any of the other eleven wrongfully convicted Louisiana prisoners to be exonerated with the aid of DNA evidence, according to the October 26th amlawdaily, “Willkie Farr Duo Helps Exonerate Louisiana Man After 30 Years in Prison”.


Golden is a New York–based litigation partner litigation, and Composti an associate in the firm’s New York office, who had worked with the Innocence Project as a Cornell Law School student

James testified at his trial, along with three witnesses to corroborate his alibi that he was asleep during the rape. The Innocence Project said James’ trial lawyer neglected to tell jurors that bodily fluid testing had excluded James as the attacker.

After exhausting his appeals, James wrote to The Innocence Project asking for help. When his new lawyers sought to perform DNA tests on evidence from the rape kit in the case, the Jefferson Parish crime laboratory at first was unable to find any. However, a lab worker found a slide from James’ case in May 2010 while looking for evidence in a different case.

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Last month, a final report on the results of court-ordered DNA tests verified James was not the rapist.

Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin was quoted as saying in the October 21st Google.com article, “Cleared man freed from La. prison after 30 years”: “It is an actual miracle that Henry James is here today. It was a miracle that his evidence was found.”

Golden was quoted as saying in the amlawdaily.com article: “I was really struck by the fact that innocent people get convicted all the time. Jurors misunderstand the importance of eyewitness identifications, scientific methods are not always followed. If there’s evidence out there that would exonerate a defendant and identify the actual perpetrator, then we as lawyers ought to pursue every avenue to make sure that evidence gets tested.”

Golden continued: “I really thought that the basic facts regarding his conviction did not add up. Jeanna and I traveled down to Angola and met with him and it solidified my view that he was innocent.”

James plans to live with his daughter, who was just three years old when he went to prison. He also plans to use the woodworking skills he learned while in prison to find work.

According to information at the organization’s website, the Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992. It is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

The Innocence Project has to date been able to set 274 wrongfully convicted people since 1989.

Founded in 1888, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm with nearly 600 attorneys in eight offices in six countries.


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