Zuckerman Spaeder Wins Compassionate Release Under the First Step Act

Zuckerman Spaeder obtained a significant pro bono victory for a terminally-ill client, resulting in his compassionate release from federal prison. The ruling from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky allows the client to spend his final days with his family and provides guidance for others seeking compassionate release under the First Step Act. 

The client, Larry Karr, is in his mid-seventies and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018, shortly after he was indicted on charges of distributing controlled substances. Mr. Karr pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison. In June 2019, Mr. Karr’s condition was diagnosed as terminal, and he was given a twelve-month life expectancy. When the Bureau of Prisons denied Mr. Karr’s request for a sentence reduction, Zuckerman Spaeder began working on Mr. Karr’s request for compassionate release.

Under the supervision of Zuckerman Spaeder partner Shawn Naunton, and with the assistance of senior paralegal Jay Chen, attorney Devon Galloway took the lead on Mr. Karr’s case, marshalling the facts and arguing in exacting detail how Mr. Karr’s release would satisfy the letter and spirit of the First Step Act. Federal prosecutors vigorously opposed the motion, arguing that Mr. Karr’s life expectancy was indeterminate and that his quality of life had not deteriorated enough to warrant release.  

Acting quickly, United States District Judge Robert E. Weir, in a detailed 23-page order, ruled in favor of Mr. Karr, finding that the “compassionate release statute does not require that the Court hear the death rattle before acting. This request satisfies the statute and Guidelines, and the Court thus exercises its discretion and gives Karr relief.” Mr. Karr is serving the remainder of his sentence on probation. At a post-release hearing in London, Kentucky, Mr. Karr expressed his gratitude for his return home to his two daughters and grandson.

A copy of Judge Weir’s order may be accessed here

This representation is part of Zuckerman Spaeder’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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