News

Illustration by Richie Pope
Crime and punishment
Richmond Law students argued for clemency for a man serving a life sentence that wouldn’t be handed down today.

Three days before he left the presidency, Barack Obama granted clemency to 231 people. Among those receiving the news gladly were a group of Richmond Law students whose advocacy led to one of the grants.

Dujuan Farrow was not a typical client for Richmond Law’s Institute for Actual Innocence, which takes on cases in which evidence shows an innocent person has been convicted. Farrow’s guilt was not in doubt, but his 2005 sentence of life without parole far exceeded current sentencing standards.

“Under today’s sentencing guidelines, Mr. Farrow would have received nothing close to life in prison,” said Mary Kelly Tate, director of the clinic.

The details of Farrow’s case were compelling to Tate and the law students working with the institute. Farrow was a nonviolent drug offender who was a passenger in a drug dealer’s car the night of a federal sting operation. He received a life sentence for conspiracy after choosing to seek a jury trial. The clemency grant reduced his sentence.

“It was a great learning experience — a great practical experience as a law student — to be able to take on a real case,” Carter Nichols, L’16, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We were doing things that you don’t learn in law school.”

Except, of course, at Richmond Law.