Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article

Received by e-mail:

The Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review is publishing its first ever article written by a prison inmate, Thomas C. O'Bryant, who is a jailhouse lawyer serving two consecutive life sentences in prison without hope of release. Having taught himself the law from prison, O'Bryant has represented himself and other inmates in numerous criminal and civil lawsuits in state and federal courts over the past ten years.

In his law review article, O'Bryant describes the difficult process that he and other indigent inmates must endure to challenge their state convictions. O'Bryant argues that the combination of federal laws and stringent prison conditions make it impossible to challenges wrongful convictions effectively. O'Bryant describes his own case, in which his lawyer assured him that if he pled guilty, he would be eligible for release after ten years, even though he discovered from prison that he would never be eligible for release.

The entire summer issue of the Journal, including O'Bryants article, is available here.

< Mel Gibson Enters Rehab | Fla, Rebublican Party Rescinds Support for Katherine Harris >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 01:24:31 PM EST
    Tragic. But, having been only a defendant, he doesn't know what the other part of the "real system" as opposed to "mirage system" is - that which goes on in the courthouses behind the bench. When I was in law school, half a decade or more pre-AEDPA, it was routine for federal judges to take on student law clerk/interns in their chambers. You'd get law school credit, the judge got extra help. The jobs the student interns got? Reviewing appeals from Social Security benefits denials and pro se prisoner habeas petitions. One of my roommates (A Federalist Society member who later went on to work many years defending the State's position in capital case appeals - still does, I think.) and a friend of his did such an internship, and I remember them laughing about how they handled the habeas petitions. Pile them up, laugh at the bad writing, criticize the penmanship, deny them all. That sort of thing - a very cavalier, laughing attitude. So, not only does the fundamental right of habeas get hosed inside the prison, but even when it gets to the Courthouse, if it gets to the Courthouse, it gets (effectively) decided by someone with not much more legal education than the prisoners writing it, and often someone who has an agenda and neither the experience nor the maturity to set it aside. Here's a part of what should be the real agenda for the Dems, should they retake Congress. 1. Repeal the parts of AEDPA pertaining to prisoners' suits and habeas limitations, retroactively. > How many judicial decisions have been issued over the last 10 years trying to square that statute with the Constitution? (A lot more than were necessary to determine habeas petitions before, that's for sure.) And force more and better public funding for criminal defense at the trial and appellate level. And make proving ineffective assistance of counsel easier. (going OT now) 2. Repeal the Bankruptcy Act from last year. 3. Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and other laws limiting labor/worker power (give some real power to the unions again). 4. Force the War Powers Resolution and limits on the Unit's purported authority. I could think of a lot more, but I really should move on....

    Re: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article (none / 0) (#2)
    by weezie on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 05:46:00 PM EST
    What was O'Bryant get convicted of to get two life terms. Sounds pretty serious?

    Re: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 06:16:03 PM EST
    It was 15 years ago that the Yale Law Journal published an article by Mumia abu-Jamal, written from Pennsylvania's death row. The cite is 100 Yale L.J. 993 (1991); I don't think it's available on line. Anyway, it's about time Harvard caught up. Of course, it was a lot more than 15 years after Yale started admitted women to its law school that Harvard did -- more like 50 years later.

    Re: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article (none / 0) (#4)
    by Peter G on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 06:28:42 PM EST
    Can there be two guys named "Thomas C. O'Bryant" serving two life sentences in America? If not, the Florida 1st Dist. Court of Appeals described the case differently in 2000 (765 So.2d 745): "Appellant entered a negotiated guilty plea to one count of robbery while armed with a firearm and one count of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. The offenses to which appellant pled guilty were committed on June 10, 1995. The law in effect at the time appellant committed his offenses authorized as possible sentences for the crime of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer a term of life imprisonment or a term of years not to exceed 40 years imprisonment, with the offender being required to serve at least 25 years in prison whether a life sentence or a term of years was imposed. See ยงยง 784.07(3), 775.082(3)(a), and 775.0825, Fla. Stat (1993). As part of his plea agreement, appellant agreed to sentences of life imprisonment on each count, and the state agreed to have both sentences run concurrent with one another. In accordance with his plea agreement, appellant was adjudicated guilty of these offenses and sentenced in January 1996 to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment, with 25 years minimum mandatory to be served for the attempted murder and 3 years minimum mandatory to be served for the robbery. Appellant did not appeal from these convictions and sentences." A quick WestLaw search didn't turn up any other "Thomas C. O'Bryant." Doesn't necessarily bear on whether his scholarship merits publication in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, of course.

    Re: Inmate Writes Harvard Law Review Article (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 02, 2006 at 01:57:52 PM EST
    something i'm kind of curious about: is he a member of the state bar? i was sort of under the impression that, in order to represent others, one had to be a licensed attorney. am i completely wrong about this?