Legal Clinics Successfully Advocate for Clemency
On Dec. 20, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens commuted the sentence of Judy Henderson to
time served: 35 years and 111 days. Led by School of Law Legal Clinics along with,
recently, Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president for mission and identity,
the Community Coalition for Clemency had been actively pursuing clemency for Henderson
for six years.
The 68-year-old grandmother’s petition for clemency had been turned down by three
Missouri governors since 2004, and without being granted clemency, she would have
had to wait until she was 83 to become eligible for parole.
The Coalition advocates for incarcerated women in the state, many of whom were the
victims of domestic violence and received sentences that were disproportionate to
their crimes, and who pose no threat to public safety.
Gov. Greitens, who personally delivered the good news to Henderson Wednesday, noted
in his statement that even the former prosecutor who had handled her case in 1982 had joined in the
chorus of support for her freedom.
Litigation Clinic supervisor John Ammann, J.D. (Law '84), McDonnell Professor of Justice
in American Society, joined by many of his students past and present, has been a longtime
advocate for incarcerated women in Missouri. He leads the Coalition, which represents
15 women seeking clemency.
"We are extremely grateful to the governor for his grant of mercy during this great
season of hope,” Ammann said. “The governor and his staff carefully reviewed Judy's
case, and provided a very thorough and thoughtful statement that explains the circumstances
of her incarceration.
"The Legal Clinics were honored to be able to be part of the legal team working for
Judy, a team that included SLU LAW alums Shannon Norman (Law '12) and Bob Ramsey (Law
'79), who led the effort to get clemency for Judy. Shannon started working on Judy's
clemency petition while she was a student in the Clinic, and continued to work for
her release after she went into private practice."
"What a great blessing to hear of this act of mercy today by our governor to give
an opportunity for a new chapter in life not only for Judy Henderson herself, but
for her family and loved ones, as well,” Collins said. “This is a moment of great
confirmation of our mission at SLU to 'pursue truth for the greater glory of God in
the service of humanity.' We are privileged to have had some role in this moment where
justice and mercy converge."
See the full statement from Greitens’ office.
Saint Louis University School of Law was founded in 1843 and is the oldest law school west of the Mississippi River. The
strength of the faculty, breadth of course offerings and extensive clinical and professional
skills experience provide students with a well-rounded legal education. The School
of Law’s rich history consists of strong connections to the community and a long tradition
of public service. SLU LAW’s location in the heart of the City of St. Louis offers
students unparalleled access to leading law firms, corporations, government agencies
and nonprofit organizations — and a unique opportunity to see the law in action.
The Community for Coalition for Clemency was formed in 2014 by a group of concerned Missouri law professors, attorneys, law
students, community leaders, former and current legislators and a former Missouri
governor. The purpose of the organization is to advocate for incarcerated women in
Missouri, many of whom were the victims of domestic violence and who received sentences
that were disproportionate to their crimes, and in many cases, harsher than what men
have received in similar circumstances. These women pose no threat to public safety,
and have already served significant sentences. The group is led by Saint Louis University
Legal Clinics, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Webster
University Department of Legal Studies and Women and Gender Studies Program.