Students free life-term prisoner
Tuesday, Sep 2, 2008
Calif. Supreme Court says USC Law clinic client may re-join community after nearly 24 years
—By Gilien Silsby
The Post-Conviction Justice Project at USC Law recently prevailed in a defining case for the California parole system for long-time client Sandra Davis-Lawrence.
|Prof. Michael Brennan|
The 4 to 3 ruling provides meaningful judicial review of parole decisions by the Board of Parole Hearings and the governor, and could affect nearly 1,000 parole cases now on appeal. Lawyers on both sides said it was the first time in recent history that the state’s highest court has ruled in favor of a prisoner in a parole case.
|Prof. Carrie Hempel|
On August 21, the California Supreme Court ruled for Lawrence, allowing her to remain free after nearly 24 years in prison.
|Prof. Heidi Rummel|
In the ruling, the justices said there was "overwhelming" evidence of Lawrence's rehabilitation while in prison demonstrating her suitability for parole. She earned two degrees in prison, including her MBA; mastered numerous marketable skills; served as a leader in many prison programs, including president of the inmates' Toastmasters Club; acted as a mentor for other women at the prison through a variety of programs; cofounded a tutoring program; and remained discipline-free. She also repeatedly expressed her extreme remorse for her crime and had tremendous support from the community for her release, including a job and a place to live.
Since 1981, more than 600 USC Law students have worked with over 4,300 clients in the Post-Conviction Justice Project on matters ranging from consultation to representation at parole hearings, as well as state and federal lawsuits challenging denials of constitutional rights.