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.
Our client Rose Watson walked free from a life sentence, and after 22 years behind bars the first things she wanted were a bubble bath and a double-bacon cheeseburger. “They were scrumptious!” she said.
In 1998, Rose was sentenced to 37-years-to-life under the Three Strikes law for carjacking and second-degree robbery. After a year of litigation, she finally walked free from Kern County Jail late Tuesday afternoon with nothing more than a black paper jumpsuit. We are eternally grateful to Journey Presley and Carlos Cervantes from the Ride Home Program, who jumped into action, met Rose outside the county jail, bought her some new clothes, and arranged for the cheeseburger and bubble bath.
“The world is different out here.” Rose told Project staff attorney Milena Blake, who secured her freedom, “I’m scared.”
Rose spent decades behind bars working to address the traumas and addiction that led to her arrest. Rose was victim of childhood sex trafficking and worked to help her fellow inmates with similar backgrounds. Behind bars, she demonstrated and sustained an overwhelming record of rehabilitation. Over the years she worked as a canteen worker, dining room worker, optician, barber, and janitor. Rose consistently received exceptional praise for her work ethic, attention to detail, and positive attitude and participation in rehabilitative programming. Last year, the Dept. of Corrections recommended her release.
The case returned to court, and her release was opposed by Kern County prosecutors who claimed she still posed a danger to the public, despite her years of excellent behavior and extensive rehabilitative programming. After several rounds of briefing and an evidentiary hearing, Rose’s life sentence was formally recalled.
This victory is another tremendous team effort. No one worked harder that Rose for her own freedom, and she sends her deepest appreciation to all our supporters and staff—and especially to Milena who who ultimately prevailed upon Kern Superior Court Judge Michael Bush to vacate Rose’s life sentence and release her based on over 22 years of time served and an exceptional record of in-prison rehabilitation and personal transformation.
We’re hopeful and confident that Rose will find her path to successful reentry. She seems happy at her long term residential rehabilitation program at WestCare, which will help her with employment, ongoing counseling, and finding permanent housing. She also has Milena, Journey, Carlos, and the peer support team at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition to continue to support her every step of the way.
Another great day—thank you all for your support!