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.

It’s been another big week at the Project, starting with the release of our longtime client George Colbert!

“For years, I thought I was going to die in prison, and today, after a long fight in court, I am free enjoying the evening, and this Big Mac! Man, it tastes the same after all these years,”  George said as he enjoyed his first meal of freedom after being released from his life sentence.

In 1996, George was convicted and sentenced to 25-years-to-life under the Three Strikes law for attempting to pass a forged check for $200. After 23 years behind bars, and many years of litigation fighting the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles, George’s life sentence was vacated under Proposition 36 and he was re-sentenced to time served and immediate release.

George finally walked from from Los Angeles County Jail after being stuck there for past seven months due to COVID. He was met at the gates by Carlos Cervantes, member and manager of the Ride Home Program. Carlos brought along a box of strawberries for George—fresh fruit he hadn’t tasted in decades. After their trip to McDonalds, they bought some new clothes, which George said made him feel “like a human being again.”

As they shared stories on the road, George told Carlos how eager he was to reunite with his family and show them that he is not the same man he was when he entered prison two decades ago. Carlos dropped George off at his residential reentry program, Amity Foundation, where he will have the resources he needs to support his successful return to the community. 

This is a special case for us. George was understandably skeptical of the judicial system – and even our offer to help him. He represented himself from behind bars for many years, dealing with complex procedural issues and necessary clerical problems that frustrated his pursuit of freedom. At the request of the Superior Court, we took on George’s case in 2018, and began a relationship we will never forget. George’s perseverance, despite setbacks, unbelievable frustrations, and never ending determination to win his own freedom left us all inspired — and we couldn’t be happier that he’s finally free!

Other Project news this week:

We also are very happy that yesterday California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeared before the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code to share his ideas on criminal justice reform, and also yesterday that the new Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections Kathleen Allison took time to (virtually) visit and speak with students currently enrolled in the Three Strikes Project seminar to share her work on the COVID emergency, running one of the largest prison systems in the world, and how to bring more fairness, equity, and genuine rehabilitation into corrections.

Special thanks to AG Becerra and Sec. Allison for there willingness to share their work and time with us — and also to all of you who continue to encourage, support, and inspire our work.

All my best,

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