President Grants Commutations to 72 Federal Prisoners, Including Donald Lee Graham

For Immediate Release

President Grants Commutations to 72 Federal Prisoners, Including Donald Lee Graham

WASHINGTON - After commuting the sentences of 200 prisoners in October, President Obama today commuted the sentences of 72 more prisoners. Of today’s 72 grants, at least 51 were in cases supported by Clemency Project 2014. That brings the total number of commutations granted by President Obama to date to 944, of which at least 469 were supported by Clemency Project 2014.

“As we near 1,000 grants by President Obama, nearly 500 of which were supported by Clemency Project 2014, our hearts fill with joy for those whose sentences have been commuted and hope for those whose petitions await action by the administration,” said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014. “The Obama administration has said it was committed to ever more grants, and it seems quite clear that the President’s actions are matching his words. None of the work of Clemency Project 2014 to provide pro bono attorneys to thousands of prisoners would be possible without the overwhelming commitment of the bar to step up and volunteer to help these worthy applicants.”

Among the prisoners who received commutations was Donald Lee Graham, who has been serving life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense since 2006. The American Civil Liberties Union featured Graham in the report “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.”

Graham talked about his sentence in an interview for the 2013 report: “Why should I want to live? I would rather [have] been sentenced to lethal injection, than suffer the way I am. If I did not care for my family, I would ask to die, but I must keep my family together. I don’t want them to suffer any more than they already are.”

Graham was sentenced to mandatory life without parole under a three-strikes law. The judge counted a nonviolent juvenile felony conviction as one of Graham’s strikes. Graham appealed his life sentence and lost, but in a dissent, Judge Gilbert S. Merritt wrote, “[T]he sentencing of this nonviolent, 30-year-old petty drug trafficker to life imprisonment by using a juvenile conviction as a necessary third strike not only violates clear congressional intent ... but also violates sound principles of penological policy based on the Eighth Amendment values recently outlined by the Supreme Court ...”

For “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses,” visit:
https://www.aclu.org/report/living-death-life-without-parole-nonviolent-offenses

For more information about Clemency Project 2014, visit:
www.clemencyproject2014.org

For more information about the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, visit:
https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform

This press release is available at:
https://www.aclu.org/news/president-grants-commutations-72-federal-prisoners-including-donald-lee-graham 

 

Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, wholly independent effort by the nation's bar, has recruited and trained nearly 4,000 volunteer lawyers from diverse practice backgrounds and completed screening of over 34,000 of the more than 36,000 federal prisoners who have requested volunteer assistance. The Project's painstaking review of these cases revealed that the overwhelming majority of those requests were by applicants who did not meet the criteria put forward by the Department of Justice in April 2014. To date, Clemency Project 2014 has submitted more than 2,150 petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

The American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Federal Public and Community Defenders, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have joined together under a working group they call Clemency Project 2014. Through the efforts of Clemency Project 2014, the participating organizations are identifying potential clemency petitioners and recruiting and training volunteer lawyers to assist them in securing clemency.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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