As a young man, Luis Rivera was convicted in Oklahoma on federal drug charges and sentenced to life without parole plus 140 years. Although subsequently reduced to life without parole plus 80 years, this sentence meant that Mr. Rivera had no prospect for being released from prison despite the fact that his offenses did not involve violence, weapons, or injury to any person. Despite this bleak prospect, Rivera completed numerous education courses and never had a single disciplinary infraction in prison. Rivera’s case was assigned to Starnes Davis Florie’s Richard Davis through Clemency Project 2014, a working group of lawyers launched after Deputy Attorney General James Cole asked for volunteers to provide free assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received shorter sentences for their non-violent crimes if they were sentenced today. Davis was then joined as co-counsel by Sam Sheldon of Quinn Emanuel. Davis and Sheldon presented the strong factual evidence of Rivera’s rehabilitation to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which then agreed not to oppose a motion to vacate portions of Rivera’s original sentence, and that motion was received, considered, and granted by the same judge who originally sentenced Rivera, ordering his immediate release from prison.
The case was the subject of articles in the American Lawyer and the LA Times.