Asking for clemency
The clinic currently represents a 34-year-old inmate who has been incarcerated since he was 17 serving a sentence of 28 years. He has an impeccable, infraction-free history while in prison. He has received a high school and college education while in prison. He has also become a skilled upholsterer who now manages the prison upholstery shop.
Five years ago, pursuant to a clemency petitioned filed by the clinic on the client’s behalf, the Washington Board of Clemency and Paroles unanimously voted to recommend to Governor Gregoire that she grant clemency to the client based on compelling evidence of rehabilitation and minimal risk to the community. The governor has not yet acted on the clemency recommendation and the clinic is now preparing a new petition asking that the Governor act on the board’s recommendation before the Governor leaves office at the end of this year. The argument in favor of granting clemency – in addition to the client’s good behavior and rehabilitation – is that he is immediately employable and his release will save taxpayers in excess of $50,000 per year.
Gonzaga Law students successfully represent a youth
The Clinic represented the mother of a 14-year-old in a dispute over whether the youth should be required to spend time with his biological father, against the youth’s wishes. Our theory of the case was that the youth had reached a rational conclusion, based on the father’s physical abuse of the youth’s step-sister (which had resulted in a criminal conviction for child abuse) and of the youth himself (which had not resulted in criminal charges) and various other inappropriate actions. Perhaps surprisingly, child abuse is not usually enough by itself to completely cut off a parent’s fundamental right to contact with his or her child. The judge denied our motion for an in-chambers interview of the youth. Instead, she relied heavily on the testimony of the youth’s counselor.
Students conducted the entire trial: opening statement, direct examinations, including examining an expert, introduction of exhibits, making and meeting objections, cross-examination, and closing argument. The experienced opposing attorney zealously represented his client. He used numerous objections and other actions that could have distracted the students, but they stayed calm and focused and did what needed to be done. In the end, the judge ruled entirely in our favor, ordering that the youth would not be forced to have contact with his father.