December 20, 2016

Clinic student Marguerite Schauer ’16 secures clemency recommendation

Clinic student secures clemency recommendation

As a third-year law student enrolled in the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic (CJRC), Marguerite Schauer ’16 spent many hours working on a clemency petition on behalf of a client in Washington state who was hoping to have the remaining eight years of his 25-year sentence commuted.

The client, Devon Adams, an inmate at Washington’s Monroe Correctional Complex, has already served 17 years for a murder he committed when he was 20 years old and a serious addict. Since then, he has completely transformed himself through education and programming available to him in prison. He has helped numerous other inmates commit to healing, sobriety, education, and personal development. Adams is deeply remorseful for his crime and believes that, although he cannot take back what he did, he can have a positive influence on the lives of others and help counsel them to not make the same mistakes that he did.

The process for commutation in Washington involves submitting a petition to the Clemency & Pardon Board. The Board then determines which petitions will receive hearings. Immediately after each hearing, the Board takes a vote, and if the vote is favorable, the petition goes to the governor’s desk with a recommendation to grant clemency.

To prepare petitions for clemency, CJRC students spend months on their cases. In addition to writing, re-writing, and filing the petition, Schauer visited prison to speak with Adams, got to know his family, and compiled the many letters of support written on his behalf.

Under the supervision of clinical professor Aliza Kaplan and attorney Jeffrey Ellis, Schauer first filed in December 2015, and, like most petitions, Adams’ petition was rejected without a hearing. In order to re-file before three years have passed, the Board requires new circumstances. In Adams’ case, the sentencing judge came out in support of clemency, and this development paved the way for filing an edited petition. Schauer earned her JD in May, but continued her clinic work. She made changes to the petition and filed an edited version in June. The petition was accepted in October and the hearing took place on December 9.

Schauer conducted the hearing, along with Ellis. She made opening remarks and presented five witnesses, including Adams. After the hearing, the Board recommended that the remaining eight years of Adams’ sentence be commuted. This recommendation will go to Washington Governor Jay Inslee in the coming weeks.

“As I said to the Board at the hearing, our client is an inspiring person with an amazing story of transformation,” said Schauer. He committed a very serious crime 17 years ago, but I can’t imagine someone more deserving of mercy. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work on Devon’s case, and it’s a great feeling to know that I helped him and his family get a result that they truly deserved.”

Schauer recently started working as a public defender in Longview, Washington. Previously, she volunteered with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. While at Lewis & Clark Law School, Schauer externed for the Victim Rights Law Center, the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, and the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center in New York City.