CRIME STORY has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for CRIME STORY and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here. You can find past issues of Romano‘s newsletter here.
We are thrilled to announce that Pete Heyberger was released from prison after serving nearly 22 years of a life sentence! Pete was arrested for burglary and sentenced to 65-to-life under the Three Strikes law in 1998. His sentence was recalled by a Santa Clara County Superior Court after both the prosecution and prison authorities agreed that Pete’s life term should be vacated and that he should be released.
During his time in prison, Pete engaged in extensive rehabilitative programming, including being an active member and leader of Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based 12-step program. He also participated in significant vocational training and organized charitable events from behind bars, all while receiving high praise from his supervisors. Pete was ultimately recommended for a reduced sentence by the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Ralph Diaz, who concluded that Pete had “changed as a person” and would be an asset to his community if released. We are all grateful that Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen and his office also agreed Pete’s life sentence should be vacated and that he should be immediately released.
Pete was welcomed into freedom by German Yambao, a member of the Bonafide re-entry program, who picked him up from Folsom State Prison and brought him on a tour of San Francisco, including his first meal as a free man, on his way to his long-term residential re-entry program in San Jose.
As always, this was a team effort. Thanks especially to amazing efforts of our attorneys, Milena Blake and Susan Champion, and our staff, students, and great friends at Bonafide. Congratulations especially to Pete, who dedicated himself to rehabilitation and personal transformation decades ago, when he had little hope of ever being free again.
MORE GOOD NEWS: I am also very happy to report that our “pop-up” pro bono program is officially off the ground as DOZENS of attorneys have volunteered to help free prisoners like Pete. We’re grateful and excited to get to work with this new team. I’d also like to plug the new podcast Chasing Justice, hosted by SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin and one of our star former students, Rachel Marshall (SLS ’10) (look out for upcoming episode featuring our own Susan Champion and more exciting news with the SF DA’s office). And finally—last but definitely not least—welcome to Clare Georgia Blake, the newest member of the Three Strikes Project team, thanks to our amazing staff attorney Milena Blake who won so many people’s freedom while she was carrying you to your birthday!
All my best,