61 federal prisoners were recently granted clemency by President Obama.
Three of these were assisted by student attorneys working in the clinical law program at the West Virginia University College of Law.
Obtaining a presidential pardon on behalf of a client is a once in a lifetime moment for any attorney, and to have students from right here at the WVU College of law accomplish this is an incredible feat.
Third-year law student Adriana Faycurry worked with Dwayne Walker, a man who was 24 when he was sentenced in 1997 to mandatory life without parole for selling crack-cocaine.
“It’s definitely been, it’s felt so good to know that he’s going to be reunited with his family and he’ll actually be able to be involved with their futures more hands on than just being in prison or over the phone,” said Faycurry.
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.
“Any image that anyone thinks about a person who is in prison, you know you think they’re one way, and then it’s a very pleasant surprise to find out that he’s a family man and he’s so dedicated to bettering himself, even though he was serving a life sentence,” said Faycurry.
Hopes are to have even more clients granted clemency.
“We have some petitions pending that I think are very strong, so we’re hoping that more of our clients and just more people in general will have the opportunity to be granted clemency under this initiative,” said Italia Patti, Franklin D. Cleckley Fellow at the College of Law.
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.
“The students have worked really hard on these cases and they’ve been able to learn a lot about our criminal justice system. They’ve been able to work with federal public defenders, and they’ve been able to see what a difference they can make in our criminal just system. It’s a powerful experience to be able to get a presidential grant of clemency for a client and to know that you worked really hard for someone who deserves it,” said Valena Beety, Associate Professor at WVU College of Law.