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Leo Cunningham took an eight-year hiatus from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati to be a criminal prosecutor, but he had to come back to the firm to try his first murder case. A white-collar criminal defense specialist, Cunningham is headed to a Miami courtroom later this month for a civil trial stemming from a 30-year-old murder. The Wilson Sonsini partner is representing the family of a 28-year-old economist killed in the weeks following Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military takeover of Chile. The family is suing a former member of Pinochet’s secret police who allegedly had a hand in the torture and killing of Winston Cabello. The man — Armando Fern�ndez-Larios — is accused of being a part of the notorious “Caravan of Death,” a roving team of secret police that had a hand in killing nearly 100 people in the month following Pinochet’s coup. Steven Davis, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami who is representing Fern�ndez-Larios, said his client had nothing to do with the death of Cabello. Cunningham, who was a federal prosecutor in San Jose from 1989 to 1997, said the case strikes a personal chord. “It’s a privilege to work on cases like these,” Cunningham said. “You get to do the right thing unequivocally, and you get to work with clients who are deeply affected on a personal level — which is different from the average business dispute.” It’s also been a challenge. Cunningham had to wrestle with evidence that was 30 years old and he had to bone up on international law standards for aiding and abetting. “The fact it was in Chile and that most of the witnesses are not English-speaking and the documents are not in English further complicates it,” Cunningham said. It’s not the usual kind of business litigation Cunningham handles, but he got the chance to work on the matter through the firm’s pro bono program. The Center for Justice and Accountability, a civil rights organization in San Francisco, originally filed suit in 1999 on behalf of Cabello’s family, who live in the Bay Area. The organization tapped a former Wilson Sonsini associate for help. When the associate left for a teaching job, Cunningham took over the case to add extra litigation firepower. He’s working alongside Joshua Sondheimer, a CJA lawyer, and Robert Kerrigan, a partner at Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin & McLeod, in Florida, where the plaintiff is located. Cunningham said he is looking forward to trial, which he will lead with Kerrigan. “It’s like being a prosecutor,” Cunningham said. “The subject matter is a serious crime, and we have no doubt we’re on the right side of it.”

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