Sidley, in partnership with attorneys from Pfizer, recently secured two pro bono compassionate release wins on behalf of our clients. Both of these cases were referred by the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse, a joint project of FAMM, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, who provided invaluable support and training.
In the first case, as part of the COVID-19 Project, we represented an 80-year-old man who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for a non-violent drug crime and had served over 16 years of that sentence.
Our client had serious medical conditions that, along with his age, put him at severe risk from contracting COVID-19. On April 4, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted our motion for compassionate release, finding that the client’s old age, serious decline in physical health, and related heightened risk of experiencing COVID-19 complications were “extraordinary and compelling” reasons warranting release. This was a tremendous victory for our client who is now safely at home with his family. The Sidley team for this case was led by Chicago partner Michelle Ramirez and included Dallas partner Angela Zambrano and Washington, D.C. managing associate Gabe Schonfeld.
In the second case, as part of the Excessive Sentence Project, we represented a 55-year-old man who had been sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug crime related to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. Our client had already served 19 years.
The client’s co-defendant had already been released, and if the client had been sentenced under newer statutes designed to decrease the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine offenses, he would have been released years ago. On February 11, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin agreed that the client was eligible for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act because of these changes in the law. Our client was released and is now free to live with his extended family. The Sidley team was led by Chicago partner Elizabeth Curtin and included Chicago associate Bridget Murphy and Sidley alumna Shalyn Caulley.