Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot released a new TV ad, “Moment,” on Friday. In the ad, Albert Cleveland describes how Lori took on his case pro bono after he was convicted of a crime he did not commit and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
“At the age of 19, I was charged with first-degree murder and I was given 45 years,” said Cleveland in the ad. “I was devastated—because I knew the truth. I was no angel, but I was no murderer. When Ms. Lightfoot became involved, it was a ray of hope. Lori ensured me ‘you’re going home,’ and I’m here today. Not many people would step up in these situations, but Lori Lightfoot is that person. Lori Lightfoot is a leader, and that’s what Chicagoans need at this moment.”
In 1996, Cleveland was found guilty of first degree murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Cleveland maintained his innocence, and after years of Cleveland attempting to challenge his conviction in the courts with little success, a public defender who had worked on the case brought it to the attention of Mayer Brown in 2013. Lightfoot took on the case pro bono and thoroughly re-investigated the circumstances of Cleveland’s conviction.
Lightfoot argued that Cleveland’s attorney failed to adequately represent him, from failing to present multiple eyewitnesses who said Cleveland was not present or involved to not disclosing previously representing the murder victim and other members of the murder victim’s family. After an evidentiary hearing and multiple appeals, Lightfoot and her team successfully won a new trial for Cleveland. Prosecutors dismissed the murder and attempted murder charges, and Cleveland pled to a time served drug charge to secure his freedom. Cleveland was released in February of 2017, having served over 21 years in prison.
While working at Mayer Brown LLP between 2005 and 2018, Lightfoot logged nearly 3,000 hours of pro bono work—well above the American Bar Association recommendation of 50 hours per year.