The pro bono efforts of a Houston-based husband-and-wife legal team allowed an Illinois man to walk free after serving nearly two decades in prison for a non-violent drug offense.
For the past seven years, Vinson & Elkins partner Darin Schultz and Morgan Lewis associate Christina Vitale represented Scott Walker, an Illinois man arrested, charged and in 1999 convicted for transporting small amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine from Arizona to sell in Illinois to support his drug addiction.
Walker was set free on April 25 after U.S. District Judge John Phil Gilbert amended Walker’s mandatory life sentence to time-served plus three years of supervised release.
Before Walker’s criminal case in the late 1990s, he had never been convicted of a felony or served time in prison but still faced a life sentence under the then-mandatory federal sentencing guidelines.
When the U.S. Sentencing Commission started retroactively reducing penalties for non-violent drug offenses in 2014, Walker’s sentence was reduced to 30 years.
Schultz and Vitale saw an opportunity for their client—they filed a motion for a corrected sentence because Walker’s original life term did not come with the regularly included condition of supervised release.
And with that, Gilbert amended the sentence to time-served with three years of supervision and Walker was immediately released from custody.
“Having worked on this case for the past seven years, it’s incredibly heartening that justice has finally been realized in Mr. Walker’s case,” Schultz said.
Read more on Vinson & Elkin’s website.
Pictured above: Scott Walker (center) with his legal team Vinson & Elkins partner Darin Schultz (left) and Christina Vitale. Photo contributed by Vinson & Elkins.