Clinic Students Celebrate Client’s Freedom

Graduating students Olivia Bradbury and Sarah Wilhite finished their law school career with the emotionally charged experience of watching their client walk out of prison.

Sarah Wilhite and Olivia Bradbury celebrate with their client Shirley Lute
Law students Sarah Wilhite, left, and
Olivia Bradbury celebrate with their client
Shirley Lute, who was released from prison.

The two students worked on the case of Shirley Lute, a 76-year-old victim of domestic violence, who was paroled last week after a long battle on her behalf by the law school’s Civil Justice Clinic.

“This was the perfect end to law school, to know that you can really make a difference in someone’s life,” said Wilhite, who made the four-hour trip with Bradbury to greet Lute, as she emerged a free woman from the Chillicothe prison in Missouri.

Bradbury added: "Watching Shirley Lute walk out of prison was a moment I will never forget. I felt lucky to have had this real world experience through the clinic while in law school. This has made me realize the importance of working for justice because it really can happen."

Following a chorus of inmates shouting “We love you Shirley,” Lute expressed profuse thanks for the clinic’s efforts.

Last month, Professor Jane Aiken and Bradbury successfully argued a habeas petition before the Missouri Supreme Court. The oral arguments were the final step in a long process in which the clinic had obtained a commutation for Lute, but then had to fight for her parole. The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Lute had been incarcerated for 29 years for her role in the murder of her abusive husband.

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

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