The firm continues to build upon the national undertaking launched in 2020 called the “Compassionate Release Clearinghouse COVID-19 Project.” The project was in collaboration with advocacy organizations FAMM, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Now, the firm is focused on individual representations of prisoners with compassionate release arguments under the First Step Act.
In the fall of 2022, a Sidley team successfully obtained compassionate release for our client, Jimmy Dee Stout, who had served half of a 15-year prison sentence for drug charges. Mr. Stout, who is 62, received a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis in early 2022 and petitioned the court for compassionate release due to his vulnerable condition. Mr. Stout contracted COVID two times in prison before his lung cancer diagnosis. Soon after doctors found his cancer, he was sent to the federal correctional complex in Butner, N.C., where COVID had already been widespread.
“I can’t thank Sidley enough. Bridget Murphy and the other lawyers who worked on my case worked hard and worked fast. They succeeded in a few short weeks where others failed, and they gave me my freedom. The chance to reunite with my family, in particular my daughters, before I pass is invaluable.”
— Jimmy Dee Stout, Sidley client
Working together with a firm client, Sidley successfully secured the compassionate release of two federal inmates who were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences on federal drug charges. Both of these cases were referred by the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse.
In one case, Sidley represented an 80-year-old man who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for a non-violent drug crime and had served over 16 years of that sentence. Our client had serious medical conditions that, along with his age, put him at severe risk from contracting COVID-19. In April 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted our motion for compassionate release, finding that the client’s age, serious decline in physical health, and related heightened risk of experiencing COVID-19 complications were “extraordinary and compelling” reasons warranting release. This was a tremendous victory for our client, who is now safely at home with his family.
A collaborative effort by Sidley lawyers and staff and the same firm client resulted in the compassionate release of a 39-year-old man convicted at age 22 of a non-violent offense and sentenced to life in prison. The client was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Innovative advocacy by the team resulted in the judge reconsidering the sentencing decision in light of recent changes in the law, including sentencing disparities related to narcotics offenses. In October 2022, the Court granted the inmate’s motion for compassionate release and reduced his sentence from life to 24 years. The reduced sentence will allow the client to re-enter the community and spend his life with his family rather than in federal prison. The cross-office Sidley team received support from summer staff, who played an instrumental role in the successful outcome.