Clinic Wins Case Before Missouri Supreme Court

A 76-year-old victim of domestic violence will be released from prison thanks to the tireless efforts of Professor Jane Aiken and the Civil Justice Clinic. After Aiken and third-year law student Olivia Bradbury successfully argued a habeas petition, the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered that the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole set conditions of parole for the clinic's client.

The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Shirley Lute has been incarcerated for 29 years for her role in the murder of her abusive husband. The clinic initially was successful in helping Lute obtain a commutation from Governor Holden, but she then was denied parole.

Aiken and Bradbury, who served as second chair, argued that “the parole board grossly exceeded its authority, when it ignored the governor’s intent and instead of weighing the merits of Shirley Lute’s exit plan, focused on the commission of the original crime,” Aiken said.

Aiken, the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law and clinic director, said the Supreme Courts’ April 17 ruling is gratifying. “We are thrilled that our client will finally receive the justice she deserves. It has been a long time coming, but we are relieved that the Court has followed Governor Holden’s intent. Ms. Lute has been a model prisoner and has more than served enough time to satisfy the state’s interests in retribution, public safety, punishment, and deterrence. This is an important victory for victims of domestic violence.”

Bradbury added:  "It has been an amazing experience to be involved in this case and to work so closely with Professor Aiken. It is a tremendous feeling that, as part of my law school education, I was able to help bring justice to Shirley Lute. I eagerly await the day she walks out of prison."

In addition to Aiken and Bradbury, other students and faculty in the Civil Justice Clinic, clinic attorney Stephen Ryals, and the Missouri Battered Women’s Clemency Coalition have worked on the case for more than seven years.

Click here for the slip opinion.

Click here to view the briefs.