This feature was part of my first issue as editor of Richmond Law magazine. Talking to Mary Tate about her and her students' work on this clemency case helped me better understand the nuances of writing about the law, and the complex nature of these cases.
In 2014, Dujuan Farrow, an inmate in a Pennsylvania prison, received a letter from Mary Kelly Tate, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
President Barack Obama’s administration had just announced its Clemency Initiative, inviting qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted. Pro bono organizations around the country were banding together to help submit petitions — including the Institute for Actual Innocence at the University of Richmond School of Law.
In the letter, Farrow read that this law professor he didn’t know had reviewed his case and believed he stood a chance. She asked to take on his case and submit a petition on his behalf.
She offered no promises, but this was Farrow’s last hope, his last shot at a life outside the prison walls that had surrounded him for 12 years.
He decided to take it.