View Full Version : Simon Pirela Death Sentence Vacated. (PA)

05-01-2004, 08:34 PM
April 30, 2004


Dechert and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis Successfully Prevent Death
Sentence for Pro Bono Client

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 30, 2004--Dechert LLP and Schnader
Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP today announced that the Philadelphia County
Court of Common Pleas has vacated the death sentence of their pro bono
client Simon Pirela, a mentally retarded prisoner who was born in Puerto
Rico and who has been on Pennsylvania's death row since 1983. This is one
of the first decisions applying the United States Supreme Court's 2002
decision in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which categorically
barred the execution of mentally retarded individuals.

The decision in Commonwealth v. Pirela, issued by the Honorable Carolyn
Engel Temin, came after a ten-day evidentiary hearing at which Mr. Pirela
was represented by Dechert partner George G. Gordon and then-Dechert
associate Aline Fairweather, and Schnader attorney Stephen J. Anderer,
Ph.D., and Robert Brett Dunham of the Defender Association of
Philadelphia's Capital Habeas Corpus Unit. Mr. Pirela's legal team
presented extensive evidence regarding his brain damage and associated
mental limitations, including images of Mr. Pirela's brain prepared
through positron emission tomography ("PET") scans, and the results of a
neuropsychological evaluation of Mr. Pirela by a nationally recognized
expert in the evaluation of Spanish speakers. Because Mr. Pirela does not
speak English and has been incarcerated in a very restrictive setting for
20 years, the assessment of his intellectual and adaptive functioning
presented particular challenges that were overcome by Mr. Pirela's defense

Over the past several years, Dechert and Schnader have represented Mr.
Pirela separately in two first-degree murder cases. In 2000, a Schnader
team led by Samuel W. Silver and Stephen J. Anderer successfully obtained
a life sentence for Mr. Pirela in one of the cases, Commonwealth v.
Morales. The firms' joint representation of Mr. Pirela at his recent
hearing was the natural outcome of the firms' close cooperation in their
efforts to prevent Mr. Pirela's execution, including sharing the
significant expense for the PET scan and MRI of Mr. Pirela's brain.

Source : Business Wire