MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA—Last week (March 30, 20156), President Barack Obama granted clemency to 61 federal prisoners. Three of them are clients of student attorneys working in the Clinical Law Program at the West Virginia University College of Law.
“To obtain a Presidential pardon on behalf of a client is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and experience for any attorney,” said Valena Beety, associate professor of law and director of the West Virginia Innocence Project at WVU. “For our law students to have accomplished this feat is incredible; I am proud of our clients for who they are, and proud of our students for the hard work they put into their petitions and advocating for their clients.”
Third-year law student Adriana Faycurry (left) worked with Dwayne Walker, a man who was 24 years old when he was sentenced in 1997 to mandatory life without parole for selling crack cocaine. Walker has been a model prisoner who writes children’s books, creates plans for a non-profit for inner city kids, and has multiple vocational certifications.
Faycurry drafted Walker’s executive summary and clemency petition with assistance from Beety and Italia Patti, the Franklin D. Cleckley Fellow at the College of Law.
“It’s still so surreal,” said Faycurry. “All the work I put in, all the hours, it has been worth it — to actually see the fruits of my labor played out in the most epic way ever.”
Third-year law students Owen Reynolds and Dustin Shreve assisted prisoner Marvin Bailey in filing his “pro se” petition for clemency. Bailey was sentenced to life in prison on drug charges in 1997. The students plan to continue working with Bailey on his re-entry and transition back to society.
Amanda Camplesi and Laura Hoffman, who graduated from the College of Law in 2015, petitioned for clemency on behalf of Byron McDade, who has been serving a 27-year sentence on drug charges. They worked with Mary Davis, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, and were supervised by Marjorie McDiarmid, the Steptoe and Johnson Professor of Law and Technology.
The WVU Law team and attorneys worked in conjunction with Clemency Project 2014, a group of lawyers and advocates who provide pro bono assistance to non-violent federal offenders who would have received a shorter sentence if they had been sentenced today.
To qualify for federal clemency, a prisoner must: 1) be currently serving a federal sentence, and likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offenses today; 2) have a non-violent history with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs or cartels; 3) have served at least 10 years; 4) have no significant prior convictions; 5) have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and 6) have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.