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The Legal Intelligencer Honors Schnader Team with "Unsung Hero" Pro Bono Award

03/27/2012

A team of Schnader lawyers was recently recognized by The Legal Intelligencer for its work successfully obtaining a full acquittal on murder charges brought against the Firm's pro bono client William J. Barnes in May 2010. Barnes was charged with causing the death of Philadelphia Police Officer Walter T. Barclay in 2007, 41 years after Barnes had shot and partially paralyzed Barclay. Led by attorneys Sam Silver and Bruce Merenstein, the team also included attorneys Leah Snyder Batchis, Julie Randolph, and Emily Hanlon.

In 2007, shortly after Barclay died at the age of 64, Barnes was arrested and charged with Barclay's murder. The prosecution alleged that the 1966 shooting that left Barclay partially paralyzed could be directly linked to the urinary tract infection and subsequent sepsis that ultimately caused his death many years later. Schnader attorneys never disputed that Barnes shot and seriously injured Barclay. Indeed, Barnes had served a full prison term for the assault. However, in the time since the shooting, Barclay had been involved in three auto accidents and two wheelchair accidents, which had a significant impact on his overall physical condition, including his urologic functioning. Barclay also experienced significant neglect and abuse from 2001 to 2003 at the hands of his live-in caregivers. Because of the passage of 41 years and the significant events that occurred between the time of the shooting and Barclay's death, the Schnader lawyers argued that there was no "unbreakable chain" of causation linking the gunshot to the fatal infection that took Barclay's life.

The unusual case involved numerous complex medical issues and required the team to investigate, locate, and review thousands of medical records from dozens of health care providers. The lawyers were able to track down medical providers who had treated Barclay decades earlier, as well as key medical records, that the prosecution had failed to uncover. The jury was charged with determining whether the gunshot could be linked to Barclay's death. If found guilty of first or second degree murder, Barnes would have faced an automatic life sentence. After six hours of deliberations over two days, the jury acquitted Barnes of all charges.

In recognizing Schnader, and the many other "Unsung Heroes," The Legal Intelligencer noted that many lawyers dedicate themselves to helping their communities through pro bono service, but too often, these outstanding attorneys do not get the thanks and recognition they deserve. The feature was an effort to give them a chance to be honored for their efforts.