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December 31, 2013

Feds now saying Lynne Stewart should get compassionate release from prison term

This notable new AP story, headlined "Government asks NY judge to release ailing ex-terror trial lawyer from 10-year prison term," provides the grist for a useful final post for 2013. Here are the basics:

A dying former civil rights lawyer convicted in a terrorism case and sentenced to 10 years in prison is entitled to compassionate release because she has less than 18 months to live, prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Prisons told a judge on Tuesday.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl, the government said 74-year-old Lynne Stewart was suffering from breast cancer that has metastasized to the lungs and bones. "Despite aggressive treatment, doctors have advised that her prognosis is poor," the letter said, adding she also has been diagnosed with anemia, high blood pressure, asthma and Type 2 diabetes. Stewart has been undergoing treatment at the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas, as supporters have rallied to get her released. Once released, the letter said, she will live with her adult son in Brooklyn.

Stewart was convicted of helping a blind Egyptian sheik communicate with followers while he was serving a life sentence in a plot to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She has been imprisoned since 2009 and wasn't scheduled for release until August 2018.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2005. The cancer went into remission but was discovered to have recurred after she was imprisoned. Stewart has written to the judge, saying she doesn't want to die in "a strange and loveless place" and wants to go home.

A previous compassionate-release request was denied in part on the grounds that Stewart had more than 18 months to live, though the judge said he would act promptly if the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed she had less than 18 months to live and granted a compassionate-release application.

A federal appeals court in 2012 upheld Stewart's 10-year sentence, saying she earned it through serious crimes that she refused to acknowledge. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was fair to boost Stewart's sentence from the two years and four months she was given in 2006. The three-judge panel that had ordered Stewart to be resentenced said it disagreed with her claim that her sentence was "shockingly high." It accused her of exhibiting a "stark inability to understand the seriousness of her crimes."

Arguably the biggest sentencing story of 2013 has been a (slight?) softening around the edges of a very harsh federal criminal justice system, largely as a product of the work of Attorney General Eric Holder. It is thus perhaps fitting that on the last day of 2013, federal officials are now supporting compassionate release for Stewart, only a few years after they succeeded in a multi-year, multi-court fight to seek to ensure she received a lengthy prison sentence that could have ensured she had to die in prison.

December 31, 2013 at 05:07 PM | Permalink

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Stewart though nothing of endangering countless innocent people. The world will be a better place when she departs it. She should rot in prison.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 31, 2013 10:21:43 PM

The thought process of condemning other humans for high crimes, low crimes, misdemeanors, breaches of etiquette, nasty lifestyle, is so entrenched in the human behavior. That is what sentencing is all about. When are we too harsh, too vehement, too rash?

Some of the comments here regarding this dying human will shed light on the mindsets of those who speak.

So speak up.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 1, 2014 6:36:40 AM

Liberty1st --

"When are we too harsh, too vehement, too rash?"

You forgot some questions. When are we too indulgent, too conflicted, too hesitant?

Do you think those might also be worthwhile to ask?

Why don't you just come out and say what you think, rather than nibble around the edges: Stewart was gadfly, a civil rights heroine, a fighter who saw just how much Amerika stinks, and who should have been rewarded, not punished, for helping out that poor, ole Blind Sheik as he tried to keep al Qaeda juiced up.

C'mon, Liberty1st, al Qaeda are our friends! Dontcha know it's just a media conspiracy that portrays them as terrorists! Stewart was railroaded by the fascist cops (I mean, EVERYONE gets railroaded by the fascist cops, so why should she be any different)? Don't let this Bush-engineered fraud continue to infect the minds of the people! Set us straight, please!!!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 1, 2014 8:29:07 AM

Lib: What about the Blind Sheikh? Pres. of Egypt Morsi called for his release. He has diabetes and is housed in a prison medical center. It is possible our Ambassador to Libya was not targeted for assassination, but for kidnapping to exchange for Sheikh's release.

How about the release from prison of Dr. Ayman Al Zawahari after conviction for conspiracy to assassinate Pres. Anwar Sadat? He went on to re-invigorate Al Qaeda, and cost us $trillions in expenses and damages. Your raise was skipped or made smaller because it went to pay for security of the airports, wars in nasty places. Had he been summarily executed in Egypt after the Sadat assassination, you would have been substantially better off personally. The judges that coddled this conspirator were as responsible for our costs as Al Zawahari. The damages included a likely million lives lost in war, from coddling the criminal. The same with Adolf Hitler, given 5 years for treason, instead of the death penalty as would have been proper legal, and and markedly utilitarian. That coddling of the criminal cost 50 million lives lost in WWII.

I am with Saddam Hussein. "If there is a person, then there is a problem. If there is no person, then there is no problem. So why take a chance?"

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2014 11:08:34 AM

Lib: As to cruelty, which is crueler, dying by cancer metastasizing to many bones, and causing pain at the intensity of a bone fracture or being shot in the head? Which is crueler, a shot to the head or chemo and radiation which will not work? In both, the criminal can be loaded up with pain meds. Pain meds will not conquer bone metastasis pain.

Spread to her lungs will have the effect of slow garotting, not over minutes, as in an cruel, painful, slow execution but over many weeks.

What is most humane here? Offer her the means to commit a quiet suicide. This offer should be made, rewarded and encouraged for all violent repeat offenders. The estate of the deceased should be compensated for all real world organ donations, if medically qualified.

Your advocacy for coddling the dangerous criminal is actually quite heartless and sadistic. You need to pray for yourself, and repent your cruel ways.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2014 11:20:02 AM

@ SC:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 1, 2014 11:26:15 AM

@ Daniel:

Personal remarks are frustration in the traverse. Like knocking over your King in chess.

Nothing is more frustrating to the left than a fact.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2014 1:17:44 PM

@ SC

Seeing personal remarks where none were issued or intended puts you in Bill Otis company, and not in a good way.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 1, 2014 4:15:02 PM

Daniel --

"Seeing personal remarks where none were issued or intended puts you in Bill Otis company, and not in a good way."

Is that a personal remark?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 1, 2014 4:45:27 PM

Nothing personal to any of the commenters but why not just shoot her in the head by a firing squad of six. I am in favor of it. Jail can be rough. Dead is dead. Illness sucks. I agree. Kill her. Quick.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 1, 2014 5:13:06 PM

Liberty1st --

"Nothing personal to any of the commenters but why not just shoot her in the head by a firing squad of six."

Ummmmm, because she didn't get a death sentence?

"I am in favor of it."

No you're not. You're just grandstanding as usual -- not making an argument, but just pretending that those who don't see it your way are morons or cavemen.

Do you think you might be able to do better than that?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 1, 2014 5:33:25 PM

Daniel: That link was to an article about kooks and trolls. Perhaps, it had nothing to do with this discussion, but your @ SC seemed personal.

Here is the fact. When our time comes, as it has for Lynne Stuart, 90% of us will have a prolonged, painful, humiliating death. So all litigation about 8th Amendment cruelty of any method of the death penalty is pretextual, stealing of tax payer money. Beheadings, shootings, knocks on the head with a hammer, electrocution, hangings, name it, it is preferable compared to what awaits 90% of us. The death penalty for this traitor and terrorist collaborator would be a kindness.

Why not a test? Offer the people on death row a great suicide, see how many choose it. Then the people with LWOP, then all repeat violent offenders.

I'll tell you why not. The lawyers on the Supreme Court do not want anything touching the $multi-Billion appellate business.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 1, 2014 5:52:06 PM

@Bill

(Claps hands in glee). At least someone has a sense of irony.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 1, 2014 8:47:27 PM

Yes, for those of us who try (we try, at least) to seriously put forth arguments against the death penalty, Liberty1st's comments have a tiresome quality.

As to Lynne Stewart -- for those whose job it is to defend such individuals, she probably made it harder by increasing distrust by crossing the line.

As to the OP overall, the application of compassionate release standards is an interesting subject. 18 months might be too long in some cases, especially for someone like her who wasn't in prison that long to begin with.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 1, 2014 9:23:14 PM

Federalist, you write "Stewart though nothing of endangering countless innocent people. The world will be a better place when she departs it. She should rot in prison."

A cold-hearted, merciless statement. Fortunately, the judge who let her out of prison was more humane.

Posted by: onlooker | Jan 1, 2014 9:30:54 PM

Well she did endanger a lot of people, no? And who would help a vicious terrorist who committed an act of terror on her country's soil? Sounds like an evil witch to me. And there's enough evil in the world.

I don't see how my statement is wrong.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 1, 2014 10:28:26 PM

Joe,

"As to the OP overall, the application of compassionate release standards is an interesting subject. 18 months might be too long in some cases, especially for someone like her who wasn't in prison that long to begin with."

I sometimes wonder if compassionate release has less to do with compassion and more to do with a lack of desire to continue to pay medical bills in the final 18 months of life.

Posted by: Erik M | Jan 2, 2014 2:13:28 PM

I changed my mind on the killing of other humans. I am not being facetious. But if you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. Firing squads are more fitting than poison, or gas, or electricity. I do encourage the straight talk on the topic. I like the word "kill" instead of "execute".

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 2, 2014 8:06:56 PM

Why are firing squads more fitting?

Posted by: Erik M | Jan 2, 2014 11:26:28 PM

I think firing squads are a quick method of killing the convict that is less snaky than poisoning him. Gas is too painful. Electrocution is mean. A firing squad of six to twelve is real and efficient. A doctor should not be involved in the killing. Only to look at the corpse and say yes he is dead. Strapping someone to a gurney and shooting him up with drugs is unusual. All the hoopla is cruel. The prayer thing or last rites should be his option. The Governor should be required to watch. That way the pardon power and duty might be taken to heart.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 2, 2014 11:36:06 PM

LIberty1st --

"The Governor should be required to watch. That way the pardon power and duty might be taken to heart."

Maybe defense lawyers should be required to watch the autopsy of the person their client bludgeoned or knifed or strangled to death. That way the conduct they're so eager to defend might be taken to heart.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 3, 2014 11:41:11 AM

Bill Otis has a good idea. The state public defenders office in each state should have a squad of forensic experts who would be allowed to sit in on every autopsy in a known homicide. They can watch while the cops clip fingernails for dna evidence and watch as the cops comingle suspect dna with dead guy's parts. All contact with the dead body should be captured on video and audio.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 3, 2014 4:56:23 PM

Liberty1st --

I have no objection whatever to defense experts watching the victim's autopsy.

To return to the idea I mentioned and that you evaded: How about having the defense lawyer himself watch the autopsy so he can see firsthand his client's handiwork? That way he can "take to heart" (to use your apt phrase) the behavior he's defending. It seems the appropriate counterpart to your suggestion that the governor be required to watch executions.

What do you say?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 3, 2014 5:49:55 PM

HELL THE IDIOTS LIKE HOLDER LEAD BY HUSSIAN THE PRES SLASH ALKDA LEADER SHOULD ALL BE IN PRISON FOR SUPPORTING TERRIOSM. IF THE PRES. AND HIS IDIOTS HAD THEIR WAY THEY WOULD TURN THE WHOLE WORLD INTO RADICAL MUSLIM LAW AND THAT IS THE DAMN TRUTH PERIOD; THE GREAT WORDS OF OUR SICK LEADERSHIP FROM THE OFF THE CHARTS LEFT. IF THEY COULD DIG UP HITLER THEY WOULD RUN HIM AND HILLIARY ON THE SAME DAMN TICKET WAKE THE HELL UP AMERICA DONT FALL FOR KISSING ASS AND WORRY ABOUT BEING CALLED A RACIST IF YOU SAY NEGATIVE WORDS ABOUT THE OBAMA GOVT. HE SO DAMN FAR RADICAL MUSLIM RIGHT ITS MAKES ME SICK. HELL YES, OBAMA YOU AND HILLARY AND ALL YOUR ASS KISSERS SHOULD BE IN PRISON FOR BENGHAZI, IRS, FAST AND FERIOUS (HOLDER ALSO) AND ESPECIALLY THE HILLARY AND OBAMA CLOWN COVER UP (WHILE 4 LAY DEAD YOU SICK, DISGUSTING BUNCH OF ANTI-AMERICANS AND FOX NEWS NOT LED BY COMMIES IS THEIR ONLY ONE WHO STANDS UP AND TELLS THE TRUTH. iT WILL TAKE A MARTIN LUTHER KING TO STAND AGAINST RADICAL LEFT WING IDIOTS WHO CHANGE LAWS AT RANDOM WHILE WE THE PEOPLE SET ON OUR ASS AND SAY WHAT CAN ONE PERSON DO )(LOOK AT WHAT ONE MAN LED BY A HIGHER POWER DID FOR HIS PEOPLE MICHAEL MARTIN LUTHER KING, YES MICHAEL WAS HIS FIRST NAME AND HE HAD IT CHANGED TO MARTIN SEE WE ALL KNOW LITTLE OF ALL RACES) LISTEN, LOOK, USE YOUR COMMON SENSE ON ALL ISSUES OF TODAY SAME SEX MARRIAGE HOW SICK YOUR HEART, SOUL, SENSES,MOTHER NATURE TELLS YOU THIS IS WRONG AND WE SET BACK AND LET SOME LIE TO OUR CHILDREN AND PAMPER THIS SICKNESS BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT THE GUTS TO TELL OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY (THIS IS LIKE A DUCK FLYING BACKWARDS, OCEAN WITH NO WATER, KILLING THE FABRIC OF AMERICA AND EVEN THE PEOPLE INVOLVED KNOW DEEP DOWN THIS IS WHAT JESUS SAID IT WAS SIN SIN SIN SIN SIN BY MICHAEL CHEATWOOOD WAKE UP AMERICA AND LETS ALL STAND UP TODAY FOR WHAT IS RIGHT PERIOD. THE FAMOUS WORDS OF THE RADICAL MUSLIM LEADER.

Posted by: evelyn cheatwood | Jan 4, 2014 12:23:24 AM

Liberty said:
"I think firing squads are a quick method of killing the convict that is less snaky than poisoning him."

I don't think firing squads are all that quick and they can be prone to error. I'm not sure what "snaky" means. Really, if that's your point, you should be advocating for the Guillotine instead. We've probably improved the reliability of hanging as well, so we could have that as an option. I sense a trend that you're suggesting public acts for the method of execution. It's worth pointing out that public support for executions were highest back when they were public.

Bill Otis, you should know that the defense attorney isn't defending any behavior, he's checking to see if the prosecution has proved their case. He's making sure all reasonable hypotheses have been excluded as alternative explanations.

Posted by: Erik M | Jan 4, 2014 12:32:18 AM

For a defense attorney to be there for an autopsy of the victim he would have to be appointed or hired by the defendant before the autopsy occurred. Maybe the public defenders office should be required to attend and all autopsies should be required to be video taped.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 4, 2014 1:35:07 AM

Liberty1st --

"For a defense attorney to be there for an autopsy of the victim he would have to be appointed or hired by the defendant before the autopsy occurred."

So? Sometimes the appointment has occurred and sometimes it hasn't. Obviously the defense lawyer can't attend the victim's autopsy when, as yet, THERE IS no defense lawyer. So what? My question was about the times when the defendant HAS a lawyer.

"Maybe the public defenders office should be required to attend and all autopsies should be required to be video taped."

You're equivocating. I'm not asking whether "maybe" defense lawyers should attend victim autopsies. I'm asking whether the lawyer for a particular defendant accused of murdering Ms. X should be required to attend Ms. X's autopsy, so the lawyer will "take to heart" his client's handiwork.

Should he or shouldn't he?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 4, 2014 9:49:47 AM

Erik M --

"Bill Otis, you should know that the defense attorney isn't defending any behavior, he's checking to see if the prosecution has proved their case. He's making sure all reasonable hypotheses have been excluded as alternative explanations."

False dichotomy. Typically, defense counsel most certainly IS defending the client's behavior, and doing so by suggesting plausible (he hopes) alternative explanations for it. The standard alternative explanation runs something like, "it's not that he's a bad man, it's that he's a sick man." But of course there are many others, including outright fabrications that someone else did the deed.

Beyond that, I should probably say that defense lawyers vary widely from technocrats (who are there to make sure the client gets the procedures to which the law entitles him) to zealots (like Lynne Stewart, who are there to Advance the Cause and show How Much Amerika Stinks). My own experience is that there are more of the technocrat-leaning types, but others' experience might be different.

There is also a type of defense lawyer who was the wise guy in high school, always had trouble with rules, and who has a "Question Authority" bumper sticker on his Volvo. This type doesn't really care what the client did, because the rape or murder or swindle isn't the problem -- the prosecutor is the problem, because the prosecutor represents rules, and rules bite.

(There are also, of course, varying types of prosecutors, from bullies who want to deploy the power of the state as their own, to nimwits who can't get a job in private practice, to some of the most principled and brilliant people I have ever known).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 4, 2014 10:10:40 AM

Firing squads would be more likely to be upheld by the courts given U.S. precedents (see, e.g., Wilkerson v. Utah). Some experts argue, all things considered, it would be better than lethal injection:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2010/06/shoot_me_now.html

That is, if we are being serious here.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 4, 2014 3:58:22 PM

my only problem with lynne steward is that she was dumb enough to go along with the "special conditions" in the first damn place.

Should have told them to kiss off and then walked across the street and filed a lawsuit against them for the civil rights violation. Anyone in America has a right to the lawyer of their choice IF they can afford them!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 5, 2014 6:37:22 PM

rodsmith --

"my only problem with lynne steward is that she was dumb enough to go along with the "special conditions" in the first damn place."

It wasn't a problem of "dumb." She signed the conditions fully intending to break her word, which she lost little time in doing. When I was growing up, that was the mark of a dishonest person.


"Should have told them to kiss off and then walked across the street and filed a lawsuit against them for the civil rights violation. Anyone in America has a right to the lawyer of their choice IF they can afford them!"

Actually, you don't. The best and smartest New York lawyer cannot practice in, say, California, unless he is a member of the California bar.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 5, 2014 7:05:27 PM

Defense attorneys don't generally attend autopsies, nor do they have any control over the death of the deceased (even assuming their client did it, which is usually but not always the case) which is a fait accompli by the time they become involved. So yeah the situation is different.

But I don't know what world you are living in if you think defense lawyers are not acutely aware of the loss of the victim and the means by which it happened. Aside from the sensory element (which is substantial), by the time I'm done with a case, I've been through the photos/video/reports of the autopsy so many times, I feel like I was there.

Posted by: anon | Jan 6, 2014 3:02:08 PM

now who's trying to play word games.

You know very well what I meant. If not let me explain it. If she was legally allowed to practice law in front of the federal bench in the state he was in. Then she had every legal right to tell them to kiss off and then file suit against the feds.

as for this!

"It wasn't a problem of "dumb." She signed the conditions fully intending to break her word, which she lost little time in doing. When I was growing up, that was the mark of a dishonest person."

Just how do you know she intended to break them? Of course you do realize it's not possible to lie to a lier? Just like you can't steal from a thief!

Just but just because a govt stooge demanded someone sign a contract ...if that contract was illegal. it's a non-issue!

In point of fact THEY are the criminal.

Posted by: rodsmithi | Jan 6, 2014 5:11:38 PM

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