"I would practice and review other lawyers’ writings, then I would write. My biggest hurdle was overcoming the naysayers and the myths,” Hassan Bennett said after he was acquitted of all charges.
Hassan Bennett, a Philly inmate, has always maintained his innocence for a murder that took place in September 2006 and for shooting another person in West Philadelphia. But it took him nearly four trials and 13 years to finally prove that he was not guilty. And the best part? Hassan decided to take up the matter into his own hands, studied law in prison and acted as his own attorney to get acquitted of murder after spending 13 years of jail time. As reported by Philadelphia Inquirer.
One conviction. 2 mistrials. Now, an acquittal. Take some time to read Hassan Bennett's story. He won his case himself after studying law for more than 12 years in prison.— Meagan Flynn (@Meagan_Flynn) May 9, 2019
"Sometimes I would just read the legal dictionary over and over and over."https://t.co/0Uwe1Ie2TJ
Hassan combed through the police documents and trial transcripts in order to understand how he could defend himself. He also took help from his fellow inmate, Brother Mook, who helped him with legal guidance and also pointed out all the inaccuracies in the trial transcripts. And so it began.
“They told me if you mess up here, your tail is done,” Hassan said. “Well, I’m not gonna mess up then. There is no room for error. This is the time you rely on yourself. They call it crunch time in basketball, when the best player in the game gets the ball with five seconds left and it’s his last shot. He wins or loses on this shot. That’s how I felt.”
On 22 September 2006, Hassan was accused of orchestrating the murder of his 19-year-old friend Devon English over a dice game, while another friend Corey Ford suffered gunshot wounds during the fight. According to the statements provided to the police, Hassan was identified as the shooter by Ford. But during the trial, Ford revealed that he was forced to pin the murder on Hassan by homicide detective James Pitts. As reported by The Root.
Saturday at 9am you must listen to @classixphilly 107.9 FM to hear #HassanBennett tell his inspirational story. He was sentenced to life, represented himself in court ... and won. @Da_Litigator pic.twitter.com/PA57jFkFGp— Solomon Jones (@solomonjones1) May 10, 2019
His first prosecution ended in mistrial while he was charged guilty in the second trial. Acting as his own lawyer, Hassan was very close to getting acquitted in the third trial, however, he fell short of one jury vote. And that's when he decided to try the fourth time, representing himself and opting to wear his prison uniform each day in the courtroom.
Hassan graduated from Overbrook High School and said he taught himself law at the prison. “I stayed in the [prison] law library. I read every book I got my hands on, whether it was law work or history," he said. "And I would practice and review other lawyers’ writings, then I would write. My biggest hurdle was overcoming the naysayers and the myths.”
Finally on Monday, after deliberating for just 81 minutes, a jury of seven women and five men acquitted him on all counts. Hassan was soon released and he walked through the front door of the Criminal Justice Center still wearing his blue prison uniform. “I feel the whole process of changing clothes and hiding your armband is all a sham because everyone knows you’re locked up," he said. "I’m going to give you the bold truth. That’s what I did.”
Hassan Bennett served 13 years in prison for murder, but his lawyer failed to introduce phone records or call witnesses that proved he didn't do it. Hassan studied law in prison, got a retrial and became his own lawyer. This time he won, and now he's free. https://t.co/897ZRPZJBy— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 9, 2019
Bennett’s standby lawyer, Ben Cooper, gave credit to Bennett’s preparation. “This is very rare. Most pro-se defendants don’t have success because of their lack of training and lack of experience. Hassan took it upon himself to learn the law, to learn the rules of evidence, to learn how to cross-examine witnesses.”
Hassan plans to work as a legal investigator and is considering heading to a law school.