CRIME STORY has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for CRIME STORY and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here. You can find past issues of Romano‘s newsletter here.

“I’m going to have a nice cry.”

That’s what our longtime client Harold Bell told me when I got off the phone with him this morning letting him know that his sentence of life without parole was just overturned in Federal District Court in Oklahoma and he’ll be home by Christmas!

Harold has served over 23 years under a federal version of the Three Strikes law for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The federal court reduced his sentence under the recently-enacted federal First Step Act because Harold would receive a significantly lower punishment if convicted today.

Harold wanted to make sure to thank all of the students who have worked on his case since 2015, ever since his underlying prior “strikes” were reduced to misdemeanors pursuant to Proposition 47. We couldn’t be prouder or happier for our team: Pauline Ryan (SLS ’20) who worked on Harold’s successful First Step Act petition in Oklahoma District Court; Sophia Carrillo (SLS ’18) who worked on his clemency petition under President Obama; and Ginny Halden (SLS ’16), who drafted our original habeas petition filed shortly after Proposition 47 was enacted by voters in California.

As with all our cases, this was a team effort, and as I told Harold, none would be possible without his hard work and perseverance over the decades. For the past 23 years of his incarceration, despite having no hope for release, Harold demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation, engaging in extensive educational and vocational programming. He amassed over two decades of consistent work history, working in a print factory, cable factory, shipping and packing center, and the prison kitchen. He has also achieved programmatic success in money management, writing and storytelling, and significant hours of GED preparation. During the pandemic, Harold and other inmates have been locked in their cells 22.5 hours per day. He says he passes time by reading news and listening to music.

Harold has a large, supportive family and they have been his emotional support system throughout his incarceration. They cannot wait to welcome him home at the end of the year. As with all of our clients, Harold will also have the support of the ARC Ride Home team, who can provide practical reentry support and longer-term peer mentorship.

It’s another great victory and a bit of brightness in these unbelievably difficult times.

Thank you all for your support!

Stay safe.

– Mike

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