Chicago lawyers of Georgia inmate cope with his death after execution

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - At age 72, Brandon Jones was the oldest inmate on Georgia’s death row when he was put to death four weeks ago.

For more than a decade, dozens of lawyers at one Chicago law firm donated their time to help keep Jones alive. They believed his sentence was too severe.

“It was really kind of a strange experience, way outside the experience any of us had had in any other case,” said Josh Buchman of McDermott, Will and Emery.

Chicago attorney Josh Buchman specializes in white collar criminal defense, often meeting with powerful CEO's in corporate boardrooms. Death Row inmate Brandon Jones was anything but a white collar criminal, but Buchman took his case anyway, donating his legal services.

FOX 32: What's it like to lose a client like this?

“It's terrible. It's terrible,” Buchman said.

Jones was executed four weeks ago for the 1979 shooting death of a convenience store manager in Georgia. For the last 13 years, Josh Buchman and lawyers from Chicago's McDermott, Will and Emery have fought to get his death sentence reduced to a lesser sentence.

“It simply was not one of those horrendous situations where there were multiple murders, where there was extreme cruelty or other elements that would make you think this was a death penalty case,” Buchman said.

Buchman does about 200 hours of pro bono work every year, and this was his first death penalty case.

“The sense of responsibility that you have because you know that the outcome here is not going to be money changing hands between corporations. It’s going to be somebody living or dying,” Buchman said.

McDermott has 1100 lawyers worldwide with many charging upwards of a thousand dollars an hour. The firm's chairman says the cost of doing so much work for the less fortunate doesn't get a second thought.

“You'll always remember the cases you did where you made a difference in someone's life, where you stood up for someone who didn’t have the voice or didn’t' have the power. Or didn’t have the power to speak for themselves,” said Chairman Jeff Stone.

Lots of new attorneys are attracted to pro-bono work. Buchman, a 30 year veteran, says he does it because it's the right thing to do.

During the 13 years McDermott helped with the case, about 70 different lawyers contributed to the effort.