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.

Lester Lewis freed after 28 years in prison! (October 5, 2020)

After 28 years behind bars, Lester Lewis is FREE!

Lester was sentenced to 50-years-to-life for indecent exposure, a crime normally charged as a misdemeanor. After over three years of litigation, he was finally freed in Kern County Superior Court under Proposition 36. He has been in prison since 1992.

Lester is now 70 years old and has suffered two strokes in the past year. While incarcerated, he was also diagnosed with cancer and coronary artery disease. He was given a yellow “mobility vest” because he could not move quickly and the vest warned corrections officers not to shoot him if he was slow to respond to orders. Lester also took education classes and worked in the prison kitchen and laundry. He was never affiliated with any gangs or violence behind bars. Despite all his time in prison, Lester has remained remarkably close with his family, who have supported him for decades.

After his release, his sister and nephew took him out to enjoy his first real hamburger in decades and got him an iPhone 11! He has already become a master at FaceTime. He marvels at life on the outside, remarking “People out here are so nice!”

This was another great team effort, and we’re especially proud of Project student Emma Schindler (SLS ‘19), who helped investigate, prepare, and brief the case in support of Lester’s release.

We couldn’t be happier for Lester and his family. He is now living with his sister, Annette, and has his own room with a beautiful view of the East Bay hills. Lester also has professional reentry support from our friends at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Ahimsa Collective.

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement!

– Mike

Freed from life sentence for shoplifting batteries! (October 8, 2020)

We are thrilled to announce another big victory:

Our client, Robert Bhaner, has been freed from a life sentence after spending over 22 years behind bars for shoplifting batteries from K-Mart!

In 1988, Robert was convicted and sentenced to 25-years-to-life under California’s Three Strikes Law for shoplifting from a K-Mart in Los Angeles. If prosecuted today, Robert’s sentence would be a mandatory misdemeanor, and he would spend a maximum of 30 days in county jail. After two years of litigation in LA Superior Court, Judge William Ryan granted our petition and ruled that Robert no longer posed a threat to public safety, reducing his sentence to a misdemeanor and time served, pursuant to Proposition 47.

Robert spent his decades in prison programming and engaging in efforts to rehabilitate himself. This record predates any chance he had for parole or resentencing consideration, reflecting genuine motivation for self-improvement. His prison records include numerous commendations from prison supervisors, who praise Robert as reliable, self-motivated, and hard-working.

Robert walked out of the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad and was picked up at the gates by Avelina Rivera, a member of the Ahimsa Collective. The two shared stories as they drove down to Los Angeles where Robert will enroll in a longterm residential reentry program at Amity Foundation, where where he will receive job training, counseling, and all the appropriate support to reintegrate back into society.

We are very happy for Robert’s long overdue release and especially grateful and proud of Three Strikes Project student Brendan Sasso (SLS ’19), who met with Robert in prison, led our work on his behalf, and drafted the main pleadings that led to Robert’s release. After several delays due to the pandemic, Project Deputy Director Susan Champion finally was able to appear in court to secure Robert’s resentencing and release.

Here’s to another group victory: not just the team at Stanford, but also thanks to our amazing partners at Ahimsa Collective and Amity Foundation!

I hope you’re all well.

– Mike

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