The Law Office of Daniel A. Horwitz, Esq.

October 28, 2020

Horwitz Secures First-Ever Exoneration of Nashville Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder; Joseph Webster Released, Has Conviction Vacated After 14 Years In Prison

Following a four-year effort to exonerate Joseph Webster for his wrongful conviction of a 1998 murder, the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office has announced that it “no longer has confidence in the conviction of Mr. Webster” and recommends that “Mr. Webster’s conviction be vacated and the charges against him dismissed.”  Acting on its Conviction Review Unit’s recommendation, the District Attorney’s Office filed a formal Notice of Intent to vacate and dismiss the charges against Mr. Webster on October 29, 2020.  Mr. Webster’s exoneration will be the first in Nashville history since the Davidson County Conviction Review Unit was established in 2016.

“After a decade and a half in prison for a murder that he did not commit, I am overjoyed that Joseph Webster’s wrongful conviction will finally be overturned,” said Daniel Horwitz, Webster’s attorney. “Mr. Webster is immeasurably grateful to those who took the time to conduct a thorough reinvestigation of his case and see that this wrong was righted.  Mr. Webster is also thinking of the entire Owens family at this time, which has to process the painful news of learning that the wrong person was convicted of committing this brutal murder.” A hearing that will enable Mr. Webster’s immediate release from prison is scheduled for November 10, 2020 at 9:00 a.m.  Webster’s case also resulted in the Conviction Review Unit’s first reinvestigation of a potential wrongful murder conviction in Nashville’s history.

Webster’s conviction was formally vacated on November 10, 2020.  He was released from prison the same day.  Selected case documents and media coverage appear below.

Daniel Horwitz is an innocence and post-conviction attorney based in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you would like to purchase a consultation from Horwitz, you can do so using the following form:

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Selected Case Documents:

*Order Granting Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis Vacating Conviction

District Attorney’s Notice of Intent to Vacate

Petitioner’s Motion to Reopen Post-Conviction Petition and Petition to Issue Writ of Error Coram Nobis

District Attorney’s Response

Selected Media Coverage:

-USA Today: ‘Oh, it’s been so long’: Mother collapses with joy after wrongfully convicted son freed

-The Tennessean: Judge overturns murder conviction of Nashville man serving life in prison in 1998 case

-The Tennessean: Nashville DA’s office moves to overturn conviction of man serving life for 1998 murder

-New York Times: Imprisoned Nearly 15 Years, but Now Cleared of a Murder He Didn’t Commit

-NBC: Tennessee man freed after nearly 15 years in prison for wrongful murder conviction

-CNN: Tennessee man exonerated after serving 15 years for a murder he didn’t commit

-The Tennessean: Nashville judge hears arguments for dropping charges against Joseph Webster

-The Tennessean: ‘The conviction is wrongful’: Attorney discusses Nashville man’s life sentence case

-The Nashville Scene: DA’s Office Seeks Release for Nashville Man Convicted of 1998 Murder

-NPR-WPLN: Nashville District Attorney Agrees To Review Conviction In 1998 Murder Case

-NPR-WPLN: Investigation: After Pledging To Examine Innocence Claims, Nashville DA Has Yet To Open A Case

New York Post: Tennessee man walks free after 1998 murder conviction is overturned

-People: Tennessee Man, 41, Exonerated After Judge Overturns 1998 Murder Conviction

-Channel 5: Joseph Webster adjusting to freedom after judge dismisses murder conviction

-Channel 4: Joseph Webster reunites with family after judge vacates murder conviction 14 years into prison sentence

-Fox 17: Nashville man imprisoned for murder for almost 15 years may walk free

-Fox 17: FERRIER FILES: Nashville murder conviction investigation to be reopened

-Fox 17: FERRIER FILES: Is Nashville man serving a life sentence innocent?

-Fox 17: FERRIER FILES: Imprisoned man’s DNA not on murder weapon

-Channel 5: Wrongful conviction requests are getting a second look

-The Tennessean: District attorney redesigns ‘burdensome’ process of searching for wrongful convictions

September 11, 2020

Horwitz Wins Lawsuit Striking Down Politician-Favoring Criminal Defamation Law, Secures $69,882.37 Fee Award

In a resounding win for free speech, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has issued an order striking down Tennessee’s criminal defamation law prohibiting false “campaign literature in opposition to any candidate in any election.”  Finding that the law represented an unlawful content-based, viewpoint-based, and identity-based speech restriction that could not withstand scrutiny under the First Amendment or the Tennessee Constitution, Chancellor Lyle invalidated the law as unconstitutional.

“Tennesseans have a constitutional right to mock and satirize politicians, and candidates for office cannot lawfully use the threat of a criminal prosecution to inhibit criticism,” Horwitz said in a statement to The Tennessean. “Tennesseans For Sensible Election Laws is proud to have won this important case and made Tennessee’s democratic process freer once again.”

Along with the win, in an order entered on September 11, 2020, Horwitz additionally secured a final judgment “awarding Plaintiff recovery of $69,882.37 in attorneys’ fees and expenses.

Daniel Horwitz is a free speech and election lawyer who represents clients across Tennessee.  If you would like to purchase a consultation from him, you can do using the form below.

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February 8, 2019

Horwitz Secures First-Ever Reinvestigation of Nashville Murder Conviction By District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit

After a years-long effort to secure a review of Joseph Webster’s conviction for a 1998 murder, the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office has officially authorized a reinvestigation into the case. It is the first investigation into a potential wrongful murder conviction in Nashville’s history.

“I applaud the District Attorney’s office for deciding to reinvestigate the case against Joseph Webster, which has utterly collapsed,” said Daniel Horwitz, Webster’s attorney. “Mr. Webster looks forward to a thorough investigation of this matter, which he is confident will prove his consistent and unwavering claim of innocence.

Daniel Horwitz is a criminal and civil appellate attorney based in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you would like to purchase a consultation from Horwitz, you can do so using the following form:

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October 31, 2018

Horwitz Secures Early Release of Calvin Bryant, College Student Who Received 17-year Mandatory Minimum Sentence For First-Time, Non-Violent Drug Offense

Calvin Bryant—a beloved college student and high school football star whose sentence garnered national attention for its purposeless cruelty after he received a 17-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense—was released from prison on October 31, 2018. Mr. Bryant’s release was made possible after his attorney, Daniel Horwitz, brokered a deal with Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk that enabled him to be released seven years early.

Due to the severity of Tennessee’s Drug Free School Zone Act—an intensely punitive sentencing enhancement that has nothing to do with protecting children, places drug offenses on par with the most severe, violent crimes, and can be applied to virtually every drug transaction that occurs within a Tennessee city—Mr. Bryant received a prison sentence for a low-level drug transaction that was longer than he would have received if he had committed Rape or Second Degree murder. His case attracted widespread calls for reform after it exposed prosecutors’ arbitrary use of the enhancement and its racially disparate application.

“This would not have been possible without a DA sticking his neck out to right this wrong, and without a legion of supporters,” Horwitz told The Tennessean. “This is—and I’m not exaggerating— the most unfair sentence I have ever seen. There is simply no circumstance in which it makes sense to punish a first-time, nonviolent drug offender more harshly than a rapist or a murderer.”

After his release, Bryant immediately re-enrolled at Tennessee State University to finish his degree and established a non-profit organization aimed at curbing youth violence and steering kids away from gangs and drugs. Selected media coverage of Mr. Bryant’s case appears below.

Calvin Bryant poses with his attorney, Daniel Horwitz, following his early release from prison for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.

Selected Media Coverage:

–The Tennessean: Sentenced to 17 years for low-level drug charge, Nashville man gets freedom thanks to deal with prosecutors

–Patch:  Nashville Case Highlights Drug-Free School Zone Reform Efforts

–Reason: How a Drug-Free School Zone Sent a Tennessee College Student to Prison For 17 Years

–Reason: Calvin Bryant Was Serving a Draconian Mandatory Minimum Sentence. Now He’s Free

–Nashville Scene:  Council Members Petition Judge Over Drug-Free School Zone Case

–The Tennessean:  He got 17 years for selling drugs near school. Now 12 Nashville officials are fighting on his behalf

–ScotBlog: Eighth Amendment Challenge Filed Against Tennessee’s “Drug Free School Zone” Law

–Families Against Mandatory Minimums: Calvin Bryant: 17 Years for a First Offense