Hogan Lovells team helps inmates as Virginia Parole Board confirms “Three Strikes” changes

Washington D.C., 29 November 2017 – Hogan Lovells is pleased to announce that several pro bono clients will likely become eligible for discretionary parole following almost seven years of determined representation. The seismic shift in how the Virginia Parole Board interprets the “Three Strikes” statute comes after years of pressure from lawyers advocating on behalf of their clients, as well as a recent investigative journalism piece by The Virginian-Pilot. Overall, the decision could impact hundreds of nonviolent offenders in Virginia who were convicted in a 12-year period following the implementation of the “Three Strikes” rule in 1982. Many inmates did not know they were ineligible for discretionary parole until long after they had begun their sentences – a decision that was made by Department of Corrections bureaucrats rather than by judges.

Adrianne Bennett, Chairman of the Virginia Parole Board, announced the decision to reinterpret the statute following advocacy from legal representatives of inmates and The Virginian-Pilot feature.  In a recent interview she told the Pilot that the Board has already made changes, but they will also be memorialized in revisions to the written policy if the governor’s office approves.

The Board will now require that offenders were “at liberty” between strikes, and will no longer consider a robbery as a “robbery by the presenting of firearms” without a concomitant firearm conviction. Previously, multiple offenses that were committed simultaneously by first-time offenders were often retrospectively interpreted as “three strikes.”

Since the firm began advocating for prisoners illegally stripped of their parole eligibility, six prisoner-clients have been deemed parole-eligible, two – Jerry David Lee and Eddie Marrero Rodriguez – have been released, and one other has been granted geriatric parole. The team continues identifying and working on behalf of other prisoners who are being denied their lawful chance at parole release.

Washington, D.C.-based attorney April Wimberley has led the Hogan Lovells team involved in the matter since 2011. Commenting on the changes, she said: “This is a wonderful and very exciting development, and represents a complete reversal of the Parole Board’s historical position. We are gratified that the Board, under new leadership, is finally acting to correct a long-standing injustice that has harmed so many.  It has been a true pleasure to pass along the  happy news to our prisoner-clients and their family members..”

In addition to Wimberley, the Hogan Lovells team included associate Arthur Kim and paralegal Alicia Balthazar, and was supervised by partners Lisa Bonanno and Ellen Kennedy.

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