President Obama's First Sentence Commutation
In a pro bono matter referred by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Crowell & Moring represented client Eugenia Jennings, who was serving a mandatory minimum sentence of 22 years in prison for selling $1,100 of crack in exchange for designer dresses.
Ms. Jennings was a 23 year-old mother of three from Illinois when she was sentenced in 2000. Her prison sentence, due to two prior convictions, was far longer than many convicts serve for violent crimes. She had no eligibility for parole, and had exhausted all possible appeals.
Crowell & Moring took the case in 2009, a year before Ms. Jennings was diagnosed with cancer.
With traditional judicial avenues for relief completely exhausted, Crowell & Moring appealed to the president of the United States.
Our team began with a vigorous petition to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which receives thousands of petitions each year. We supplemented our request with a comprehensive brief and also deployed a government relations and public affairs strategy to raise awareness of Ms. Jennings' plight.
We held meetings on Capitol Hill and worked closely with the staff of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), a long-time opponent of mandatory minimums, to raise awareness of the case we believed cried out for justice.
On November 21, 2011, the White House agreed.
Crowell & Moring secured a commutation of sentence from President Obama for Ms. Jennings. It was the first under the Obama Administration, and the third of four presidential sentence commutations the firm has secured on behalf of pro bono clients to date.
After a lengthy battle with leukemia, Ms. Jennings passed on October 13, 2013. She spent the last two years of her life in freedom, with her family.