Serena Nunn, 36, turned her life around after getting caught in a drug deal at 19, says the Detroit News. After spending 11 years in jail and being pardoned, Nunn is graduating from the University of Michigan Law School. It happened because a pro-bono attorney filed a petition for clemency — which President Clinton granted in 2000. Clinton says, “I’m very proud of Serena. Her accomplishments show that giving her a second chance was the right thing to do.”
Nunn was convicted of conspiracy to distribute 20 kilograms of cocaine, as well as possession of 6.5 grams of cocaine and 4 grams of crack found in her bedroom. She says: “I deserved punishment. But to lock me away for my entire 20s?” Because of the amount of cocaine involved, federal mandatory-minimum sentencing rules dictated she serve almost 16 years. If such rules did not exist, wrote U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty “no judge in America, including me, would have sentenced Ms. Nunn to 15 years.” Attorney Sam S. Sheldon read about her case. “Her story was so compelling,” says Sheldon, “about wanting to be an attorney all her life. So I wrote her.” Sheldon approached Doty, who had sentenced Nunn, as well as the prosecutor in the case. For the first time in his career, Doty — a Reagan appointee known to be a hardliner — wrote a letter in support of clemency.