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Sentencing/Post-Conviction

Dying disbarred lawyer won’t be released from prison now, but could get out later

Posted Aug 12, 2013 2:43 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A 73-year-old disbarred New York lawyer who is dying in prison of breast cancer that has spread to other areas of her body has lost her bid to have her sentence vacated by a federal judge.

But U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl said he would be "prepared to give prompt and sympathetic consideration" to any motion filed by the Bureau of Prisons seeking compassionate release for Lynne Stewart, Reuters reports.

The government had argued, and Koeltl agreed in a written opinion, that he doesn't have the power to order Stewart's release unless the Bureau of Prisons seeks it.

Although Stewart had argued that because of her cancer, her imprisonment constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the judge disagreed, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports.

"There is no right that requires the release from prison of terminally ill inmates,” Koeltl said in his written opinion. And, while the Eighth Amendment can support release for those whose guilt was minimal, Stewart "cannot point to any diminished culpability or lack of seriousness of the offenses that would render her sentence unconstitutional."

However, the judge acknowledged that the situation has changed since Stewart previously applied to the bureau for compassionate release and was denied. Since she is now expected to die within 18 months, a requirement for consideration, she could now be recommended for release, he pointed out. Her lawyers have reapplied, and the application is pending.

Stewart is serving a 10-year term for passing messages from an imprisoned client in a terrorism case to his followers in Egypt.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Dying disbarred lawyer asks federal judge to vacate sentence, after compassionate release is denied"

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