Zuckerman Spaeder Secures Expedited Compassionate Release for Terminally-Ill Prisoner

A pro bono effort led by Zuckerman Spaeder associate Alicia Shelton has allowed, with extraordinary speed, a terminally-ill patient in federal prison to be granted compassionate release. The client, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and recently ceased chemotherapy treatment, has served nearly 15 years of his 18-year sentence in federal prison, most recently at the prison facility in Butner, North Carolina. 

Ms. Shelton petitioned the District Court for the Northern District of Alabama for release on compassionate grounds, arguing that her client’s deteriorating health constitutes “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for release, that the period of imprisonment already served is just punishment, and that he is not a danger to the community. 

The court expressed concern about the client’s release, given the Bureau of Prisons’ coronavirus lockdown. Ms. Shelton contacted Covenant Care, which moved quickly to assist her in securing a hospice bed where the client can be tested for COVID-19, and then Ms. Shelton arranged for medically appropriate air transportation. With those provisions in place, the court granted the client’s compassionate release request. The court order came on April 15th – three days after the client had engaged Zuckerman Spaeder.

The client has been medically cleared for discharge and is now at home with his sister, where he will reside for his remaining days. 

The Zuckerman Spaeder team included Ms. Shelton and Aiza Siddiqi in Baltimore, Jack Fernandez in Tampa, and Senior Paralegal Christine Vandergriff in Baltimore, and was supported in Alabama by attorney Bill Athanas of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP. Mr. Athanas, who provided important insights regarding practice in the Northern District of Alabama, was indispensable in gaining rapid release of the ailing inmate. 

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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Katie Munroe
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