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.

Harold Bell is home for the holidays!

23 years ago, Harold was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in a nonviolent conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Yesterday, after serving more than two decades of his mandatory life sentence, Harold walked out of the gates of the Federal Correctional Institution-Mendota, and into the arms of his waiting family

We first started working with Harold during President Obama’s clemency initiative in 2015 and have litigated his case in federal court in Oklahoma based on a number of grounds, including the fact that one of the prior state ‘felony’ convictions used to trigger his mandatory life sentence had been reduced to a misdemeanor under reforms to California’s drug laws by Proposition 47. Harold was finally re-sentenced and ordered released by the federal District Court in Oklahoma under the First Step Act.

Now 54 years old, Harold amassed over 20 years of extensive engagement in educational and vocational programming while incarcerated. He also had a nearly perfect prison disciplinary record and the lowest-possible security classification available to a life prisoner.

After a trip to his niece’s home to see even more family, Harold will go to Fontana to live with his brother. As always, mentors from the Anti Recidivism Coalition will be there to help Harold adjust to the new challenges and opportunities he will face.

As always, this was a team effort and we couldn’t be prouder or happier for our group, especially our students: Pauline Ryan (SLS ’20) who drafted 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 federal habeas petition filed shortly after Proposition 47 was enacted by voters in 2015.

Harold is our 46th client to walk free from a life sentence this year! All will be celebrating their Christmas outside prison walls for the first time in decades. As this unbelievable year comes to a close, we look forward to more success and family reunions in 2021.

Thank you all all for your continued support and encouragement, and we hope you have a very happy (and safe) holiday!


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