Pro Bono Representation

As professionals, attorneys owe a duty to serve the public by providing free representation to some clients. During their years of practicing law, Ben Vernia and Jess Gabel have devoted over one thousand hours to representing individuals in civil and criminal cases, and non-profit clients in transactional and litigation matters on a pro bono basis.

State of Mississippi v. Cory Maye

For five and one-half years, Ben and Jess have represented Cory Maye, a young Mississippi father who shot and killed a police officer in 2001 whom he mistakenly believed was an intruder. After other officers kicked in the bedroom door where Mr. Maye's daughter lay sleeping the officer charged into the darkened bedroom. The State of Mississippi charged Mr. Maye with knowingly killing a police officer in the line of duty, and he was sentenced to death.

Working with a team of attorneys from Covington & Burling LLP and Bob Evans, a lawyer in Monticello, Mississippi, Ben and Jess took over the case after
trial. Ben was instrumental in identifying and locating a confidential informant who directly contradicted the probable cause which the officer
used to obtain the search warrant in the case; Jess presented a compelling mitigation case which persuaded the trial judge to vacate the death
sentence.

After Ben argued Cory Maye's case before the Mississippi Court of Appeals along with a Covington & Burling attorney, that court granted Mr. Maye a new trial. The State appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which affirmed the new trial, although on a different ground.
After the prosecutors expressed an interest in settling the case, a plea agreement was reached under which the capital murder charge was reduced to "culpable negligent homicide" (a form of manslaughter), with time served, and no post-release supervision or fine. On July 1, 2011, Ben stood with Cory as he entered a plea of guilty to the dramatically reduced charge.

Noteworthy Matters

  • A non-profit in a protest of a local payroll tax penalty assessment.
  • A mother wrongly accused of reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident based on an erroneous license plate report.
  • A youth accused of breaking and entering a car.