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.

Arnold Dunham walked out of Folsom State Prison late last week, a free man after his life sentence was overturned by a Superior Court in Los Angeles! 

At 76 years young, Arnold says he is ready to make every last day count.

Arnold has been in and out of jail since he was nine years old, when he was committed to California’s Youth Authority for being “incorrigible.” His mother had been beaten and hospitalized by Arnold’s stepfather (who frequently targeted Arnold as well). While there, Arnold was physically abused by staff and survived a difficult childhood. Despite the challenges, Arnold had some success outside of prison and for nine years prior to his most recent commitment worked as an actor, appearing in some small parts on several HBO shows and in music videos in the ‘90s.

In 2006, Arnold was sentenced to life under California’s Three Strikes law for a series of robberies, where no one was hurt and he used a fake gun. The life sentence, imposed when Arnold was 66 years old, was a wake up call. He dedicated himself to his rehabilitation and found his particular niche working in the prison library helping other inmates learn to read. His hard work won the attention of prison officials, and he was eventually recommended for early release by the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, on account of his “exceptionally meritorious” conduct while incarcerated. When his case returned to Los Angeles Superior Court, prosecutors agreed that his sentence should be recalled under a California “second look” resentencing law (Cal. Penal Code § 1170(d)), and the judge vacated his life sentence and ordered his immediate release, based on the time he already served. 

Arnold was met at Folsom’s prison gates by Moses Gallegos, a life coach from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition’s Ride Home Project. Upon discovering that day was Moses’ wedding anniversary, Arnold gifted one a piece of art he made in prison to Moses and his wife. The pair stopped for a first meal of freedom, and Moses drove Arnold to his residential reentry program in Los Angeles.

We are deeply grateful to the Secretary of Corrections for recognizing Arnold’s hard work and giving him another chance, as well as to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which agreed with the Secretary’s resentencing recommendation;  we’re proud of our team—especially staff attorney Milena Blake who led our litigation on Arnold’s behalf; and, most of all, we’re extremely happy for Arnold as his rebuilds his life outside of prison walls. 

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement!

Yours,
Mike