Zuckerman Spaeder Secures Compassionate Release for Terminally-Ill Inmate Living in a COVID-19-Stricken Prison

Zuckerman Spaeder Associate Michael Pardoe led a pro bono effort that resulted in a district court swiftly granting compassionate release for a terminally-ill cancer patient in a federal prison. This compassionate release case is one of ten that the firm has taken on since last summer.  

The client, who has advanced stage cancer, had served 11 years of his 19-year sentence, most recently in a North Carolina prison. Prior to Zuckerman Spaeder’s involvement in the case, the Bureau of Prisons had denied the client’s request for compassionate release, saying his life expectancy was “indeterminate” and ignoring the prison physician’s terminal prognosis in November 2019 that said he has less than 18 months to live.

In taking on the case, Mr. Pardoe demonstrated to  the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia that his client’s deteriorating health met the legal requirement of an “extraordinary and compelling reason” for compassionate release and that the prison complex holding his client is currently experiencing the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country, making his medical condition imminently life-threatening. At the suggestion of co-counsel Carl Lietz, he also highlighted that the U.S. Attorney General had recently prioritized home confinement for many incarcerated at the prison, given the spike in coronavirus cases and deaths there.

On April 27th, less than a week after receiving Mr. Pardoe’s reply brief, the District Court ruled in favor of our client, stating, “Defendant satisfies the extraordinary and compelling justification for a sentence reduction,” and that the “pandemic, to which Defendant is susceptible because of his condition, makes his situation even more compelling.” 

Mr. Pardoe commented, “We are extremely pleased with the ruling, which strongly rejected the government’s arguments for keeping our client incarcerated. He will now receive medical care from Emory University Hospital and be able to spend his remaining days living with his brother and being close to his other siblings.”

The Zuckerman Spaeder team was led by Mr. Pardoe, who is based in Baltimore, assisted by Tampa partner Jack Fernandez, and Baltimore Senior Paralegal Christine Vandergriff, and was supported in Georgia by co-counsel Carl Lietz of Finch McCraine LLP. 

This representation is part of the firm’s long-standing dedication to community service and pro bono representation. With respect to compassionate release, the firm takes referrals from the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse, a collaboration of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and FAMM.  For more information about the Clearinghouse, visit www.FAMM.org.

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Kalie Walrath
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