November 15, 2014

Jenner & Block Partner Jessica Ring Amunson’s pro bono client is featured in a Mary Mitchell column in the Chicago Sun-Times in which the author argues that a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime is unfair.  Titled “Joliet Case Illustrates Sentencing Unfairness,” the article quotes Jessie at length about the case, which involves Jesse Webster’s 1994 arrest on an aborted drug deal. Mr. Webster is serving a life sentence after being convicted of conspiracy, attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and for filing false tax returns. Jessie explains that Mr. Webster has exhausted all of his appeals and that his only hope is that President Obama will commute his sentence under new clemency criteria announced by the Department of Justice.  “We have secured the support of the judge who sentenced him, and the prosecutors who prosecuted him, all of whom said a life sentence for his crime is a punishment that does not fit the crime. A more appropriate sentence is approximately 20 years, a time that he has already served,”  Jessie said. The author concludes her column stating that “Webster’s life sentence represents a distortion of justice.”  The column is the latest in a series of media reports about Mr. Webster’s case.  In October, the Rolling Stones profiled Mr. Webster in an article about the “shame” of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.  In February, the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board called on the Department of Justice and President Obama to commute the sentence.  In January, Mr. Webster was the subject of a New York Times article titled “A Dealer Serving Life Without Having Taken One.”