Francois Holloway has spent nearly two decades of a 57-year sentence in a federal prison, for serious crimes that no one disputes he committed, says the New York Times. The fairness of the mandatory sentence has been a matter of dispute, not only for Holloway, but also for a surprising advocate: the trial judge, John Gleeson. As Holloway filed one motion after another trying to get his sentence and his case re-evaluated, Gleeson, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, began to speak out against those mandatory sentences that he believed were unduly harsh. Holloway's 57-year term was more than twice the average sentence in the district for murder in 1996, the year he was sentenced. Gleeson asked U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to vacate two of Holloway's convictions. Today, Gleeson is expected to order Holloway freed.
“Prosecutors also use their power to remedy injustices,” Gleeson said yesterday. “Even people who are indisputably guilty of violent crimes deserve justice, and now Holloway will get it.” Sentencing experts characterized Judge Gleeson's effort as exceptional, saying it could be a blueprint for judges who want to revisit sentences that are legally required but, in their view, unjustifiably long. “The normal attitude has been, 'This is terrible, but the law is the law,' ” said Douglas Berman, a sentencing expert at Ohio State University, referring to severe sentences. Rather than “waiting for Congress to act or waiting for the president to grant massive clemency,” he said, Judge Gleeson appears to believe that this is a problem that federal prosecutors and judges “not only ought to be tackling, but are better positioned to tackle.”