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Law Students Help Free Three-Strikes Offenders

Publication Date: 
May 13, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Jack Leonard

Lecturer in Law Michael Romano, one of the founders of the Criminal Defense Clinic, is quoted in the Los Angeles Times in an article about the work of Law School's Criminal Defense Clinic and students Jennifer Robinson, Jesse Goodman, and Mark Melahn, who helped free several three-strikes offenders:

His case marks one of several recent victories for a Stanford law clinic where students are devoted to reversing what they view as miscarriages of justice under the three-strikes law.

Their work involves a new twist on a strategy employed by innocence projects nationwide in which students have helped overturn wrongful convictions and sparked debate over the death penalty.

Rather than championing the innocent, the Stanford students are advocating for prisoners guilty of what they view as relatively minor offenses and raising the question of how much prison time is too much.


Since its launch in 2006, the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic has been deluged with letters from inmates and their relatives pleading for help. None have attorneys to handle their appeals, the clinic says.

Instructors at the clinic sift through the letters and review appeals records in search of clients who appear to be good candidates for their help. Most of the inmates they aid have nonviolent criminal records.

"There's a huge number of people who fit into that category," said Michael S. Romano, a Stanford law school lecturer who launched the clinic.