MPR Reports on Likely Early Release of Client of Law School's Clemency Clinic

MPR reported on the success of the Law School's Clemency Clinic, run by Professor JaneAnne Murray, in securing the likely early release of Samantha Heiges, a woman in her 13th year of a 25-year sentence imposed for killing her newborn at age 19. Heiges, who was in an isolating and abusive relationship at the time is quoted as saying to the Minnesota Board of Pardons “[e]ven though this happened over 16 years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse or guilt for what happened ... This is a moment in my life that still weighs heavy on my heart and soul and I will never forgive myself for what happened.”

The board, which consists of the governor, state attorney general and Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice, ordered a release plan from the Department of Corrections ahead of final action next month. All spoke in favor of commutation.

The article quotes the "University of Minnesota Law School team" that took up her case as saying Heiges's "sentence was far stiffer than she faced had she pleaded guilty to a crime she insists was committed under duress. A plea deal that Heiges rejected would have landed her a four-year sentence, they said."  Heiges was represented at the Pardon Board hearing on November 22, 2021, by Murray and Hannah Camilleri-Hughes '20. 

Gov. Tim Walz, the board chair, MPR adds, said the case is a human tragedy by any measure. “At this point, at this far down in your sentence, I’m not certain that I believe society is served well by you being separated from your [13-year-old living] daughter. I think being able to parent and the ability to continue on there is strong."  Adding that Heiges has taken responsibility and the record reflects she has been a model prisoner, he said “[t]his is happening because we believe you’re going to be successful and you’re going to make this work and society is better served."