The holiday season is a special time for many. But, thanks to the efforts of attorneys at Ulmer & Berne LLP, few will have a happier 2016 holiday than Darnell Walker. The firm announced today that it has secured the early release of Mr. Walker, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania federal prison for a 1995 drug conviction. Ulmer attorneys Linda DelaCourt Summers and Alyson Terrell filed a petition for clemency on Mr. Walker’s behalf through the Obama Administration’s Clemency Project 2014, and President Obama granted the petition this week, reducing Mr. Walker’s sentence from life in prison to 30 years.
The Obama Administration implemented Clemency Project 2014 to examine clemency requests on behalf of inmates serving lengthy prison sentences imposed under laws that were in effect at the time of their sentencing, but which later were determined to be overly harsh. Had those same individuals been sentenced under today’s laws, their prison terms would be far shorter.
Such was the case with Mr. Walker who, as a 26-year-old, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for a drug-related crime. His prior criminal history resulted in a mandatory life sentence, though his prior convictions were for non-violent offenses, one a misdemeanor. Prior to his life sentence, Mr. Walker had never spent a single day in prison. Had he been sentenced under today’s laws, his sentence would have been 10 years to life, and he likely would have been sentenced at the low end of that range.
“Darnell Walker is a prime example of the type of individual for whom the Clemency Project was designed,” said Summers, Counsel at Ulmer and one of the attorneys on Mr. Walker’s case. “If Darnell had been sentenced today, he would not have been sentenced to life. He has served over 20 years in prison, and during that time, has worked hard to improve his life and receive an education. We are grateful to the Obama Administration for reviewing our client’s case under the current law, and we are obviously pleased that his petition has been granted. Mr. Walker has served his time and deserves this second chance. We look forward to the future when Mr. Walker can spend time with his family and become a productive member our society.”
Summers and Ulmer associate Alyson Terrell served as pro bono counsel to Mr. Walker in this matter. They were assisted by associate Alex Koenig, then a summer law clerk, and paralegal Joan Shackleton.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of Linda, Alyson, and their team for the tireless work they did on this case,” said Ulmer managing partner Scott Kadish. “For them to give so freely of their time to assist a man who likely would have been forgotten by the U.S. criminal justice system speaks volumes about their character and their commitment to serving both our corporate clients and under-represented individuals who have the same right to legal representation.”