Prof. JaneAnne Murray and Clemency Project Client Quoted in Star Tribune

The Star Tribune published an article about a client of the Law School's Clemency Project, directed by Professors JaneAnne Murray.  Kelli Caron -- who, filing on her own, received an unprecedented grant of clemency from the Minnesota Board of Pardons last year in a state case—is now seeking, with the Clemency Project's representation to get clemency in a parallel federal case from President Joe Biden.  Were she to be successful, she may well be the first person in history to receive both state and federal clemency. 

A low-level, non-violent drug offender, whose criminal conduct was driven by her own debilitating addiction, Caron is hoping to get released before her child bearing years are over.  But her application is one of a 17,000 case-backlog at the U.S. Pardon Office.  Murray, long an advocate of judicial "second look" programs, is quoted in the article as "also advocating for cases like Caron's to be remedied through the courts. She said federal judges nationwide managed thousands of petitions for compassionate release during the pandemic and have released some 3,600 prisoners since last year."  The article goes on to quote her saying: "Clemency could be one way, but because of the number of those pending petitions, it is going to take some serious resolve, effort and resources to get through all of those and get it to the point where the president can do large-scale clemency . . . At the end of the day, clemency may not be the answer. But the answer is a systematic second-look procedure that permits prisoners to return to court and have prosecutors and judges revisit their sentences."

Caron's 14-year sentence was driven by the prosecutor's decision to threaten a mandatory life sentence if she elected to go to trial.  Murray is quoted as criticizing this "trial penalty," where "prosecutors have filed charges carrying steep prison terms in a bid to push defendants to plead guilty instead of seeking a jury trial."  Murray, and law student Ingrid Hofeldt, 3L, who drafted Caron's petition under Murray's supervision, "argue[d] that Caron's past drug possession convictions could no longer be used to calculate such a lengthy term were she to be sentenced today under new guidelines passed in 2018.  They say that the nearly 6½ years Caron has spent in prison is almost twice as long as she may have been ordered to serve today."