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Case reflects great need for, rewards of free legal service

Sunday, September 21, 2003

It was an unlikely social mixer: members of Philadelphia's largest law firm lining up to shake the hand of a man who had spent 18 years awaiting execution on Louisiana's death row.

The firm of Morgan Lewis had flown John Thompson, 40, to Philadelphia to be an honored guest at a Friday evening reception at the firm's Center City offices.

Two of the firm's partners, J. Gordon Cooney Jr. and Michael L. Banks, had spent 15 years working to save Thompson from execution for the 1984 murder of a New Orleans businessman. They not only saved his life - they won his freedom. And this was the celebration.

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