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Alabama Law Students Successful in Criminal Defense Clinic

May 15, 2024
Three law students in a prison parking lot with a blue sky in the background above the prison. Aleah Brown is on the left, she is a Black woman wearing black slacks and a black and white blazer. Virginia Willis, in the middle, is a white woman wearing a black and white bouse and black slacks. Simone Hampton, on the right, is a Black woman wearing black slacks, a patterned blouse, and holding her blazer in her left hand. They are all smiling brightly. To protect her privacy, the client is not pictured.

Aleah Brown, Virginia Willis, and Simone Hampton

Simone Hampton, Aleah Brown, and Virginia Willis, students in the Criminal Defense Clinic at The University of Alabama School of Law, recently secured the early release of a woman who was subject to abuse and retaliation by prison staff while incarcerated at FCI Dublin in California.

The prison has been under investigation for some time, and at least eight of its employees have been charged with crimes against inmates who were housed at that facility. Additional prosecutions and lawsuits against the prison for its culture of sexual abuse have led to its recent closure.

After transferring to a facility in Alabama – just an hour away from the Law School – the client was referred to the Alabama Law Criminal Defense Clinic by the NGO Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).

Throughout the Fall 2023 semester, the Clinic students spent over 300 hours researching new changes in applicable law, applying federal sentencing guidelines and factors, and writing a motion for compassionate release. In December 2023, under the direction of Professor Amy Kimpel, the clinic students filed a 300-page motion of legal arguments and supporting exhibits for their client’s early release. The prosecutor assigned to the case then did not oppose the release. In March, the judge in the case granted the motion, and the clinic team spent the next day supporting their client while she was released and later reunited with her family. She is now excited and inspired to enjoy her family, work a job, eat ice cream, and live her life for the better; the Clinic is very proud of her progress.

The following is a testimonial from lead student attorney Simone Hampton about what the students learned that they will take with them into practice:

“Working on this case offered me several invaluable lessons as a student attorney that I will take with me into my professional career. Aleah and I learned a lot about federal sentencing firsthand as this motion demanded our familiarity with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the sentencing factors of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). With Virginia’s insights, we prepared for our client’s re-entry into society by shopping for a prison-release care package while emphasizing choices for our client. And together, we navigated the most relevant skill: communication. We supported each other as we patiently and effectively emailed courthouses, planned with U.S. Bureau of Prisons personnel, and spoke with the client’s family. My ultimate takeaway from the experience is that there are various sacrifices that attorneys choose to make for their clients, but those sacrifices are well worth it because we are in such a powerful position to really change people’s lives. I am beyond proud and honored to be part of the legal team that gave our client freedom and justice.”

Click here to learn more about the clinics that are offered at Alabama Law.

The University of Alabama School of Law strives to remain neutral on issues of public policy. The Law School’s communications team may facilitate interviews or share opinions expressed by faculty, staff, students, or other individuals regarding policy matters. However, those opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Law School, the University, or affiliated leadership.