CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, March 5, 2007

Prof Jane Aiken and Student will Argue Habeas for Woman Who Recieved Commutation But Denied Parole

AikenjWashington University Law School Clinic Prof Jane Aiken and third-year law student Olivia Bradbury will argue a habeas petition before the Missouri Supreme Court on March 8. Aiken, Bradbury, and the School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic are representing a domestic violence victim who received a commutation from the governor, but then was denied parole. Bradbury is serving as second chair.

The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Shirley Lute, 76, has been incarcerated for more than 28 years for her role in the murder of her abusive husband. The clinic initially was successful in helping Lute obtain a commutation in part because her husband’s physical, psychological, and emotional abuse of her was not brought into evidence at the time of her original trial. These mitigating circumstances likely would have led to a lesser  sentence, had she been tried during today’s awareness of Battered Spouse Syndrome. Lute also already had served more than three times the average amount of time served for a violent felony in Missouri.

“Governor Holden commuted Ms. Lute’s sentence because he believed that she had served enough time in prison to satisfy the state’s interests in retribution, public safety, punishment, and deterrence,” Aiken noted. “The parole board grossly exceeded its authority, when it ignored the governor’s intent and instead of weighing the merits of her exit plan, focused on the commission of the original crime.

“Ms. Lute has been a model prisoner, has a support system of family and friends waiting for her release, and has a means of supporting herself financially,” Aiken said. “It is travesty of justice that more than two years after Governor Holden commuted her sentence to life with immediate possibility of parole, she remains incarcerated.”

In addition to Aiken, students in the Civil Justice Clinic, clinic attorney Stephen Ryals, and the Missouri Battered Women’s Clemency Coalition have worked on the case.

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Tracked on Mar 6, 2007 1:18:00 AM


Just want to tell you my story of abuse and how our movers and shakers of the City of St. Louis, Missouri treat those who have been abused.
First I need to mention that I am a disabled woman with heart problems & complications with circulation due to diabetes. I was married to an alcholic & abuser. When he found himself a girlfriend, he was determined to ruin me. He told me, 'I have connections & I'm gonna f**k your life up.' He had me arrested 6 times in 2 months for charges I'm still not sure of. I had NEVER been in trouble with the law until then and I was 46 at the time. On one of my jail visits, I was refused medicine for my diabetes and was told by the guard that "she didn't give a damn if I had diabetes or not' and walked away. (Thank God for those overly sweet honeybuns that they serve you for breakfast or I surely would have been in a boatload of trouble.) Another visit was for 1st degree assault. He claims I tried to run him over which did NOT happen. He just so happened to pull 2 people out of a bar he frequented ofter & talked them into being false witnesses. This is where I really get mad. One of these so-called witnesses was a deputy sheriff for the City of St. Louis. He also had a different deputy following me around and serving me in areas that he was not assigned to. My abuser is now using those that are supposed to uphold the law to abuse me even further. I never was charged with anything except stalking. His girlfriend got in court & perjured herself throughout the proceedings. She even had the nerve to call me after court and laugh that I had lost. The police refused to get involved because they said her call was not threatening. Never mind that she now had a restraining order against me which also required her not to contact me.
I wrote the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the Sheriff, (whom I also called several times but chose not to talk to me or return the calls), the Board of Police Commissioners & the Circuit Attorney concerning the actions of these deputies and the jail guard. Originally I sent everything regular mail & received no response. I then sent them another letter, mailed certified, and to this day I still haven't received a response from any of them. This all happened in 1999 & it still really pisses me off. I was not only abused by my ex but also by the city and their employees. If you haven't been through an abusive relationship then you have absolutely no idea how it affects someone. The bruises are gone but the emotional toll never seems to go away. I believe that had I stayed with my ex for much longer, he would have killed me.
How do you heal when you can't get those involved in this farce to pay for their breaking the law? If the bigwigs of this city think this kind of thing is ok, which is what I gather since no one responded, who do you turn to? I cannot afford a lawyer as I have no type of income (I'm living off my savings that are depleting quickly). I really think too much time has now passed to have anyone charged with a crime but I still think these deputies need to be held accountable. I can clearly see why these women kill their husbands. I have been crying for help for years. When I hear the leaders of this city talk against domestic violence, I just cringe because I know how they really feel. My ex has recently remarried and I am fearful for his new wife. I found out that he was also abusive to his wife before me and I am sure the abuse will continue. I guess she will have to find this out on her own. For me to warn her would end up with the ex doing who knows what to me. Thanks for letting me vent my anger.

Jill Kelly
St. Louis MO

Posted by: Jill Kelly | Mar 9, 2007 6:19:18 AM

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