April 26, 2019
A Weil team in collaboration with Louisiana counsel achieved a significant victory in an important pro bono case representing the oldest “juvenile lifer” incarcerated in Louisiana. Clifford Hampton pled guilty to murder in 1958 for killing a friend, and received a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Now 78, at the time, he was a severely abused and traumatized 17-year-old.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juvenile defendants, and in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller applies to sentences imposed before Miller was decided. Those decisions were based on neuroscience demonstrating that adolescents’ brains and impulse control mechanisms are not fully developed, and that young people can change as their brains develop and they mature as adults. Under these cases, as well as from Louisiana implementing Legislative Act 277 of the 2017 Regular Session, Clifford became eligible for parole.
Following an intensive effort by Weil and local counsel, and despite opposition, Clifford was granted parole on April 11, 2019, after having served more than 61 years in the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, once dubbed the bloodiest prison in America. Clifford is a classic example of the kind of person envisioned in the Supreme Court decisions: While in prison, he obtained an education, studied the Bible intensively, mentored other prisoners, gave sermons at prison church services, and did not have a single prison rules infraction in more than 20 years.
The matter was referred to the Firm by the Loyola University (New Orleans) Gillis Long Poverty Law Center.