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.


Yesterday afternoon our longtime client David Mowatt walked free from prison after serving 26 years of a life sentence for evading a police officer. “My dreams of being free weren’t as wonderful as the reality of it!” he said.

David was met at the prison gates by Anton Abilevich of from the ARC Ride Home team, and after a stop at Carl’s Jr. for a burger, and a trip to Target for necessities, brought him to Tarzana Treatment Center, which will address his medical needs and provide ongoing treatment and reentry support.

David grew up a victim of physical and sexual abuse, from both his biological and foster families. While in prison, he worked to overcome his traumas and better understand his violent childhood, and subsequent substance abuse. He participated in hundreds of hours of rehabilitation programming, becoming Chairman for his AA/NA Group and tutored other inmates in the prison’s education programs. He earned a GED and three Associate’s Degrees in Science and Math, American Studies, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Tragically, in 2015, David began losing his ability to walk. After several years of testing, he was diagnosed with a progressive neurological disorder that will continue to impact his ability to move. By 2020, David was confined to a wheelchair and began losing sensation in his arms. Last year, he contracted COVID and pulled through despite his fragile health. 

This victory comes after four years of tireless litigation and we couldn’t be prouder of our legal team and especially former Project student Vina Seelam (‘16) who drafted the main brief on David’s behalf. Vina now works as a public defender in the Northern Mariana Islands.

David is one of the first Proposition 36 petitioners in Los Angeles to have benefited from District Attorney George Gascón’s new policies. Despite David’s rehabilitation, poor health, and inability to walk unassisted, the previous District Attorney opposed his release for years on the grounds that he posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. That position changed this year under DA Gascón and the judge finally agreed to David’s release.

He says he couldn’t be happier or more grateful to Vina, all the lawyers on his team, and everyone who supports the Project — and we thank you all!

IN OTHER NEWS:

We are very proud of the inaugural Report and Recommendations from the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code, which is the culmination of a year of study, research data analysis, and testimony from stakeholders throughout California’s justice system. The Report was formally submitted to Governor Newsom and the state legislature yesterday. It includes 10 proposals, including ending mandatory minimums, curtailing sentence enhancements, and correcting California’s incoherent parole system, which together touch every aspect of California’s criminal legal system.

The proposals are derived from new data obtained and analyzed by the Committee and our partners at the California Policy Lab and from a wide array of experts who testified before the Committee, including Governors Newsom and Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, law enforcement leaders, system-impacted people, and academic experts. We’re especially grateful for the staff who shepherded the project, particularly Committee attorneys Tom Nosewicz (SLS ‘08) and Rick Owen, Three Strikes Project staff attorney and fellow Lara Hoffman, and our new intern Emma Briger. The Committee’s Report, research memoranda, and YouTube recordings of all Committee hearings are available here.

Many thanks to you all.

Mike