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This week, Governor Pritzker granted the clemency petition of longtime firm pro bono client Charles Harris, commuting his lifesentence to time served and ordering his release from Pontiac Correctional Center. Mr. Harris was sentenced to life in prison under the Illinois Habitual Criminal Act in 1988 for committing three armed robberies, even though two of the robberies occurred when Mr. Harris was a juvenile, no one was injured during any of the robberies, and a total of only $235 was taken during the course of all three robberies combined.
The team was led by Partner Thomas P. Sullivan and included Associates John J. Frawley and Bethany H. Felder. Together, the team drafted a Petition for Executive Clemency in which they argued that Mr. Harris’ life sentence constituted a gross miscarriage of justice given the nature of the crimes, the mitigating factors that led to those crimes, and the astounding personal reforms Mr. Harris made while incarcerated. Additionally, the team collaborated with Mr. Harris’ family and friends to obtain letters in support of the petition. The team also coached Mr. Harris for his interview with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.
Mr. Harris’ release will end a total of 40 years spent in prison. Mr. Harris had previously submitted three petitions for executive clemency, all of which were denied. Mr. Harris looks forward to reuniting with his family upon release and spending time in his community educating young people about the criminal justice system.