Inside the Clemency Lottery
The Marshall Project
January 26, 2017

“Of the thirty-odd clemency petitions I prepared this year as an attorney with the NYU Clemency Resource Center, Tom’s was perhaps the strongest. Tom left home at sixteen because his mother, a methamphetamine addict, physically abused him. Out on his own, he began using drugs and was soon addicted, dealing small quantities to support his habit. One night when he was twenty-one, his girlfriend, also a drug user, asked him for heroin. They shot up together; unbeknownst to Tom, she had also taken a large amount of cocaine, and she suffered a fatal overdose. At trial, the jury found Tom guilty of drug distribution, but acquitted him of causing his girlfriend’s death, following testimony she had taken only about one-twentieth a lethal dose of heroin. Notwithstanding the verdict, however, the Judge found that heroin had contributed to her death. He sentenced Tom to eighty years in prison, under then mandatory sentencing guidelines.”

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