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California Briefing / Los Angeles

USC law student helps free convict

March 28, 2009|Cara Mia DiMassa

Because of the efforts of a second-year USC law student, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he will allow the release of a woman who has spent 29 years in prison for sitting in a car while her husband robbed and killed a liquor store owner in 1980.

Connie Keel, who had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, was at the California Institution for Women for nearly three decades. In May 2008, Adam Reich took on her case as part of the USC Gould School of Law's Post-Conviction Justice Project.

Reich said that Keel was an abused wife who was unable to "disobey her armed, abusive husband."

At the parole hearing, Reich argued that Keel was fully rehabilitated; that she had served 29 years for what he termed was "a crime of inaction"; and that she was a battered wife. "Had an expert presented evidence of such at her trial, it's likely she would not have faced as stiff a sentence as she did," Reich said in an interview.

Keel, now 50, will probably be released in a few days.

-- Cara Mia DiMassa

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