Star Tribune Reports on Historic Victory of the Clemency and Juvenile Justice and Child Advocacy Clinics led by Profs. Murray, Walsh, and Sanderson
The Star Tribune published a lengthy article describing the case of Carlos D., a teenager convicted of murder at the age of 14 during a botched drug deal. Housed in a segregated unit of an adult facility since his sentencing, he sought a transfer to a juvenile facility where he could mingle with teenagers his own age and obtain age-appropriate programming. As he states in the article: "No kid should come here [to the segregated unit at Lino Lakes]. I know it's a punishment, but at the same time it's inhumane to sit a kid around all day and not get them help they truly need. The main point of prison is rehabilitation and there's none of that in here."
Two Minnesota Law students, respectively in the Clemency Clinic, led by Professor JaneAnne Murray, and the Child Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic, let by Professors Jean Sanderson and Megan Walsh, took up his case. Emma Kruger, 2L, and Joshua Gutzman, 3L, filed a petition before the Board of Pardons seeking a temporary limited "reprieve" of Carlos' sentence so that he can be housed at Red Wing for one year until he turns 18, at which point he will return to an adult facility and complete his sentence. The two students argued the case before the Board of Pardons on December 20, 2023. As the students explained, "[p]lacing Carlos within the most therapeutic environment possible was in the public's best interest, since he will be eligible for supervised release by age 22." Gutzman, as the article quotes, adds: "Not only does it help Carlos along his path to be a productive and well-socialized member of society when he's released ... it will also save the Department of Corrections money that would otherwise be spent running an entire segregated correctional facility for one prisoner." The article notes that the victim's mother signed off on the request as long as it didn't shorten Carlos' sentence.
The reprieve is thought to be the first by the Board of Pardons since at least 1911, the year Minnesota outlawed the death penalty. The article quotes Professor Murray: "This is a perfect example of clemency operating the way it was intended, as a backstop or safety valve [in our criminal justice system], fixing a gap or injustice in the law that could not be addressed in the courts."