Since 1981, the Post-Conviction Justice Project has represented hundreds of clients in front of the Board of Parole Hearings and all levels of the California Court system. The project is currently representing more than 50 women serving determinate and indeterminate life sentences at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.
In 2008, PCJP won the landmark case In re Lawrence in the California Supreme Court leading to meaningful judicial review of parole decisions and important reforms to the parole process that resulted in a realistic avenue for release for thousands of deserving life-term inmates.
In 2008, PCJP successfully represented Sandra Davis-Lawrence before the California Supreme Court in a defining case for the state’s parole system. Since then, the Project has been increasingly successful at securing grants of parole and court-ordered release for its clients.
Maureen Carroll was released through grant of habeas corpus based on In re Lawrence after serving more than 25 years for felony murder.
“I get to enjoy my life out in the real world. I bless the work you do and how much effort you all, including the students, do help let lifers find a second chance at freedom again. We all owe you and your program the world, what you did for us can never be repaid.”
Pauline never denied responsibility for shooting the victim who had abused her sons and was thoroughly remorseful for her crime. She served more than 25 years as a model inmate – highly trusted by prison staff and peers. Following four successive Governor reversals of Board parole grants, she was released in 2009 when Governor Schwarzeneggar allowed her fifth grant of parole to stand.
A victim of human trafficking and extreme abuse by her captor, Marisol Garcia was finally released and reunited with her family in Mexico.
“So many years passed while I sat in my cell with no hope. After 21 years a bill passed— SB9 — and brought me hope. But all those years in a cell left me with no way to pay for the help I needed….Heidi’s dedication to rescue discarded youth (although now no longer young) compelled her to come see me. And the rest is history. PCJP’s professional and passionate student attorneys fought for me for two years and won a highly contested hearing in court. By God’s mercy, I was no longer sentenced to die in prison. But it didn’t end there. PCJP represented me at my parole hearing. Well, it’s been three-and-a-half years since I’ve been out, being a law abiding citizen. Grateful every day for a second chance.”
Leesha Gooseberry served 25 years for killing her abusive boyfriend when she was 19 years old. Ms. Gooseberry was subjected to physical and verbal abuse as a child. When she was 15, she tried to escape from her tumultuous home life and ended up in an even more abusive relationship with a 39-year-old powerful and violent drug dealer. After a particularly brutal rape and beating in the presence of their infant daughter, Ms. Gooseberry shot and killed him. Ms. Gooseberry was granted parole under the Sin by Silence bills.
PCJP client Edel Gonzalez, who was sentenced to life without parole for a crime he committed at age 16, is the first person resentenced under the California Fair Sentencing for Youth Act.
Connie Keel released on parole after spending 29 years in prison for sitting in a car while her husband robbed and killed a shop owner. PCJP law student, Adam Reich, launches an aggressive social media campaign to help bring awareness to the injustices of her case.
After serving nearly three decades at the California Institution for Women, where she was a model prisoner who earned her high school degree in 2010, Martina Olea was released and reunited with her family in Mexico.
“I was learning to trust people with the pain I had quietly carried for a very long time. Little did I know that I was going to meet Heidi and she was going to change my life. She assigned James and Anna to work with my brother and they helped move mountains. And because of their love and passion for what they do my brother is finally home after serving almost 24 years. We owe you all so much!“
After many years of unspeakable abuse by her husband, Margaret Moore participated in a conspiracy to murder him and was sentenced to life without parole for her role in the crime. In 2002, following an investigation and corroboration of the abuse, USC law students successfully advocated for the Board of Parole Hearings to remand her case for resentencing where she regained the possibility of parole. After serving more than 25 years in prison as a model inmate, she was released on parole in 2009.
Although she always maintained her innocence, Lydia was convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to seven years to life in prison. She served more than thirty years in prison before being finally released in 2011, at the age of 65.
Ms. Smith had been in prison since she was 21 years old for her role as an accomplice to murder. After 28 years of incarceration, the Board of Parole found her suitable and granted parole on June 21st, 2012.
PCJP helped me in a very tremendous way. I was found guilty of first-degree murder at the age of 17 and was sentenced to 25 years to life. …. I submerged myself and several self-help groups throughout my incarceration and also facilitated many self-help groups that helped others as well as myself. When Valley State Prison for Women shut down I was transferred to California Institution for Women. This is when I heard about USC and their law school that helped represent lifers going before the parole board…I was sent out an attorney by the name of Lisa Yumi. She helped me day-in and-day out prepare for my up-and-coming parole hearing. Her dedication, positivity, supportiveness and smile always made me feel confident. She went above and beyond anything that I could have imagined. Not even paid attorneys have done as well as she did. I understood things on a whole new level once with her. When I walked into the board room this time I was more ready than I had ever been before… I had full clarity on my role in the crime and I took full responsibility for it. All of this is due to this wonderful school that stepped out to help me…I have been out now for five years. I am married and have two baby boys. Today I am a law-abiding citizen. Living a good life, a stay-at-home mom to my children and so very thankful for this opportunity. I could not have done it without PCJP. I am forever in debt to them.