SADO's Challenges and Triumphs on Juvenile Lifers Featured in Detroit Free Press

SADO made front page headlines in the Detroit Free Press Thursday (2/9/2017) with a story highlighting the growing success our attorneys are having in representing juveniles once sentenced to die behind bars. So far, 50 Michigan prisoners, many of them SADO clients, have been re-sentenced, in keeping with recent United States Supreme Court rulings that it is unconstitutional to send children to prison for life. Five have been released on parole.

The Free Press stories, shared repeatedly on Facebook and Twitter, looked at several juvenile lifer cases, including Jennifer Pruitt, 41, sentenced as a teen to life in prison in 1992, after she participated in a burglary gone wrong, in which the 75-year-old home owner was stabbed to death by Jennifer's accomplice, a much older woman.

Pruitt was repeatedly raped while in prison, and was part of a lawsuit brought against the MDOC by several women prisoners alleging sexual assault. Nevertheless, she turned her life around, became a model prisoner, and now counsels troubled young women. Her warden would like to see her freed, as would the judge who sentenced her.

She was before Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson Thursday and will learn March 2 if she will soon go free. "Jennifer is an example of everything the court wants her to be," her attorney, Robyn Frankel told the court, in asking that she be sentenced to what amounts to time served and allow her to go before the parole board. "She's done everything, plus she's been able to establish that she is a better person. If Jennifer doesn't deserve a second chance than nobody does."

The story, by Free Press staffers John Wisely and Elisha Anderson, also looked at the case of John Sam Hall, 67, who was released Feb. 2 after almost 50 years in prison. He had been a teen when he and an older male dragged an elderly man into a Detroit alley to rob him. The older male struck the man in the stomach. He died of his injuries. Hall was convicted of first degree murder and sent to prison in 1967.

SADO attorney Valerie Newman, who heads SADO's  juvenile lifer unit, successfully argued that Mr. Hall was deserving of a second chance. The Supreme Court, in its rulings, said all juveniles, with rare exception, should be given at least the consideration of eventual freedom.

"The language is direct," Newman said at the time her client walked free from prison. "Life with out parole should be the rare case."

-By L.L. Brasier

Read the entire article here.