MPR Reports on Successful Petition by Law School's Clemency Clinic Before the Minnesota Board of Pardons
MPR reported that the Board of Pardons formally voted today to grant the commutation petition of Samantha Heiges, a client of the Law School's Clemency Clinic run by Professor JaneAnne Murray. Heiges was convicted of killing her newborn and has served over 12 years of her 25-year prison sentence. She had another child shortly before entering custody who she has parented from behind bars. The Board had heard Heiges's case last month, at which Heiges tearfully testified about her remorse and the circumstances of her crime, but delayed the vote so that her release plan could be analyzed.
Gov. Tim Walz, who along with Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Attorney General Keith Ellison make up the board, opened the hearing saying: "What you will witness is one of the most human events that you can imagine . . . You will see emotions ranging from pain to joy, and I hope what you will see is the potential for redemption and restoration.” Murray was in attendance, along with Hannah Camilleri-Hughes '20, who worked on the case, and Professor Rebecca Shlafer from the Medical School.
MPR noted that among other arguments in its written filings, the Clemency Clinic pointed out that the sentence Heiges received "was 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.
MPR quoted Murray's description at the hearing today of the steps being taken to ensure Heiges's smooth reentry into society, including family therapy involving Heiges, her daughter and other relatives. “There will not be unsupervised visits. The daughter is not going to be with Ms. Heiges at the house unaccompanied at any point,” Murray said. “And the plan is to reintegrate them carefully.”