Jenner & Block

Firm’s Pro Bono Client Featured in Four-Part Sun Times Series

Jesse Webster, the firm’s pro bono client who was granted executive clemency after serving 20 years of a life sentence on charges related to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, is the subject of a four-part series by Chicago Sun Times columnist Mary Mitchell.  The series chronicles Mr. Webster’s run-in with the law at age 26 and how he had been in prison for 14 years and lost several appeals when he “crossed paths” with Partner Jessica Ring Amunson.  A federal appeals court appointed the firm in 2009 to represent Webster in his last, and final, appeal. Ms. Amunson is photographed and quoted throughout the series, telling Ms. Mitchell that, “I was honest about how much odds were against” clemency.  “But I decided to take on his clemency case because I could not understand why someone like Jesse would be spending the rest of his life in jail for a non-violent drug offense.  It just made no sense to me that our criminal justice system would work that way.”

On March 30, 2016, President Obama granted executive clemency to Mr. Webster and 60 other individuals “serving years in prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws,” according to the White House. The series tells of Mr. Webster’s work to re-integrate himself in society since his release, including getting a job at Catholic Charities.  It also describes Mr. Webster’s first face-to-face meeting with Ms. Amunson, in October at a restaurant in downtown Chicago.  “It wasn’t like I was meeting her for the first time,” Mr. Webster says.  “I felt like I knew her.”  Ms. Amunson is quoted saying, “It was a pretty amazing thing to be a part of helping someone spend the rest of their life with their family, rather than spending the rest of their life in prison.”

In addition to Ms. Amunson, Partner Barry Levenstam and Associate Caroline DeCell worked on the case. The team’s efforts included petitioning Capitol Hill and sharing Mr. Webster’s story with major media outlets such as the New York Times.  Ms. Mitchell also wrote several columns about Mr. Webster in the past and published Mr. Webster’s open letter to youth.  “It took a lot of caring people to get Webster back home safely,” the series concludes. “Without them, he would still be wasting away behind bars.”

December 2016

December 2016

December 2016

December 2016

TAGS: Appellate, clemency

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, Barry Levenstam, Caroline DeCell

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