Firm Spotlight: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP

Volume II Issue 1


Albert Carreon, an Arizona Death Row prisoner, was convicted on February 25, 2005.  At his trial, his counsel failed to present any significant mitigation evidence during the penalty phase of the trial. Appointed state post-conviction counsel was determined to be medically incompetent and removed from the case. 

At the ABA’s request, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP stepped in as pro bono counsel for Mr. Carreon.  Manatt employed a competent mitigation specialist who began the mitigation investigation that should have started shortly after Mr. Carreon’s arrest.  In March 2008, Manatt partner David Elson (pictured top right), along with associates David Moran and Joanna Hooper, filed an application for leave to file a supplemental petition supported by a preliminary showing that significant mitigation evidence had been available if trial counsel had conducted a proper mitigation investigation. 

On August 1, 2008, the trial court granted Manatt’s application, ruling that Mr. Carreon has a Constitutional right, as well as an independent right under Arizona law, to the effective assistance of counsel in post-conviction proceedings.  The trial court's rulings are the first by an Arizona court to address this important issue.  Manatt then successfully sought the appointment of a Mexican mitigation specialist (Mr. Carreon was raised in Mexico until the age of 13), as well as the appointment of an investigator and several experts whose fees and expenses, to a significant extent, are now being reimbursed by the State pursuant to the court’s ruling. 

Manatt has also worked closely with Arizona Federal Public Defender Capital Habeas Unit attorneys Dale Baich and Jennifer Garcia, as well as Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program (MCLAP) attorneys Chris Dupont and Greg Kuykendall.  Manatt volunteered to act as pro bono counsel without expecting reimbursement for any of its out-of-pocket expenses.  It has delivered zealous, high quality representation to Mr. Carreon for the very first time since his arrest.   The firm hopes that the rulings for state funding of expenses will encourage other law firms to provide volunteer legal assistance to Death Row prisoners.


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