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.

Derrick Thompson is finally free! 

Over two years ago, Derrick was recommended for early release by prison staff, wardens, and the Secretary of Corrections due to his “exceptionally meritorious” conduct while incarcerated over the past two decades. After being sentenced to 40-years-to-life under the Three Strikes law, little hope he’d ever be released, and initial opposition from prosecutors— Derrick’s sentence was finally overturned in Los Angeles Superior Court, and he walked free from Folsom State Prison late last week!

During his incarceration, Derrick committed himself to personal growth and rehabilitation, earning the respect of other inmates who saw him as a mentor, and prison staff, several of whom wrote letters in support of his release. 

Initially, the Los Angeles District Attorney opposed the Department of Correction’s recommendation to reconsider Derrick’s sentence. Despite that opposition, last summer at the height of COVID, Project deputy director Susan Champion convinced a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to reduce Derrick’s sentence from 40-years-to-life to 25-years-to-life. 

Our team didn’t give up on Derrick. After the election of District Attorney George Gascón last fall, Project staff attorney Milena Blake took a break from her work developing our policy agenda for next year to lobby new attorneys in the DA’s office to reconsider their position from last summer. They ultimately relented, reversed their opposition to Derrick’s release, and filed their own motion to requesting that Derrick’s sentence be reduced late last month. The same judge who denied Derrick release last year, resentenced him to time served. (We are obviously very grateful to DA Gascón and his team for their assistance!)

Derrick was released from Folsom State Prison last Wednesday and met at the gates by ARC Ride Home Project and Arnold Dunham. (You may remember Arnold from earlier this year when he was also released under the same program as Derrick.) After a stop for a quick meal — Derrick reports that “the food is really good out here!” — and to pick up some new clothes and other necessities to get him started, Arnold drove Derrick to his long term residential reentry program in Los Angeles.

Derrick is our 17th client released from a life sentence so far in 2021 (plus another dozen freed in through our pro bono pop-up project). It’s a huge effort and accomplishment, and we couldn’t be happier for Derrick, who did so much of the hard work on his own, or prouder of our team who helped him over the finish line!

Derrick sends his thanks to you all—as do all of us from the Three Strikes Project!


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