NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project

NACDL Mobilize

Helping others reach freedom

NACDL is mobilizing members and other volunteers to strive for a society where all individuals receive fair, rational, and humane treatment within the criminal justice system.

Trial Penalty Clemency Project

TPCPAs set forth in the 2018 report “The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It,” authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in conjunction with the Foundation for Criminal Justice, trial by jury has declined to the point that less than 3% of state and federal criminal cases are tried to a jury. And, as set forth in the Report, many of those individuals who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial have been severely penalized for doing so.

While society is awakening to the number of wrongs embodied in the trial penalty, there are a number of individuals living the trial penalty as they serve excessively long prison sentences as a result of electing to go to trial and holding the government to its burden. The only remedy for these individuals is executive clemency. The Trial Penalty Clemency Project aims to assist those individuals by pairing Applicants with Volunteer Attorneys who will assist them in preparing a clemency petition.

Reform is needed to end the trial penalty. In the interim, this Project provides an opportunity for a second chance to those individuals who are living it.

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Virginia Redemption Project

The purpose of this project is to match currently incarcerated individuals with pro bono lawyers to assist them in completing their clemency petitions. Having counsel through the clemency process greatly increases the chances of success, and this project will help to ensure that those who are most at risk of illness from COVID-19 and who cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review. This project is open to anyone who is currently serving a Virginia state sentence for non-capital offenses, whose case has concluded (all appeals have been exhausted).

While Virginia recognizes three types of pardons, this project will initially focus only on conditional pardons, which are only available to people who are currently incarcerated. A conditional pardon is an act by the Governor to modify or end a sentence imposed by the court. The Governor only grants a conditional pardon when there is substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances to warrant it. As a result of the settlement agreement in Whorley, et al. v. Northam, et al., the Governor and Secretary of the Commonwealth agree to prioritize conditional pardons and to actively identify and expedite consideration of petitions that reference medical concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through this project, we will screen individuals who are interested in receiving assistance with a conditional pardon based on identified criteria. We will match those individuals with pro bono attorneys to assist them in completing their petition. And throughout the process, we will provide counsel and support to the pro bono attorney. We will also track the outcomes of conditional pardon petitions submitted through this project.

This project is being launched through a joint commitment and shared resources from the NACDL, ACLU of Virginia, FAMM, Justice Forward, Legal Aid Justice Center, and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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Supported by the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice

The mission of the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice is to preserve and promote the core values of America’s justice system guaranteed by the Constitution – among them due process, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, fair sentencing and assistance of effective counsel – by educating the public and the legal profession to the role of these rights and values in a free society.

The NFCJ is a 501(c)(3) registered charity. All contributions, minus any tangible benefit, is deductible as allowed by law.

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