Tom Henry’s parole hearing was scheduled for last Thursday, March 21. Before I tell you what I know about how it went, let me start with a dark joke. (Yes, your Honor, it’s relevant.)
Question: What do you call the guy who graduates from medical school with the lowest grades in his class?
That said, let me tell you a little about the two Northwestern University law students working on Henry’s Parole Hearing. Both were assigned to assist Henry with his parole hearing by the legal director of the Chicago Uptown People’s Law Center, Alan Mills, a Northwestern adjunct Professor. Alan Mills is a prince among men, standing up for the poor and disenfranchised, doing pro bono work for justice for those unjustly treated by the Illinois Department of Corrections, slumlords, and other tyrants. For more information or to donate to this worthy cause go to http://uplcchicago.org.
Back to the law students assigned to help Henry. By assigning two, Alan Mills assured the safety of redundancy, which was good because on the date of Henry’s parole hearing, one was on a school-related trip to South America, so her partner was slated to attend Henry’s hearing to speak for him.
I received an urgent text that evening from Henry’s son, Tom Elliott of southwestern Missouri, asking me to call him. He was agitated. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “The lawyer never showed,” he said, “and the parole board lady asked Dad if he wanted to go on with the hearing and he said yes, since his sister and her husband had driven all the way there for it.”
I could imagine the blow to the gut that must have been for Henry—now that he’s done 30 years with good behavior and is 65 years old and has a realistic chance at parole—to have entered that hearing room and to be told his lawyer didn’t show or even call and to have felt he had to continue with the hearing because of his sister driving over four hours to be there. I felt so bad for him.
I was at dinner with friends at the time, but I immediately emailed Alan Mills from my phone to ask what had happened. He didn’t know, but he forwarded my email to the student who hadn’t showed and the next morning the answer arrived:
“Prof. Mills, I planned on making the trip today, but I had car trouble and couldn’t obtain another car for the day. I spent all of yesterday trying to get my car repaired. By 7pm I knew I wouldn’t be able to have it fixed in time. I didn’t know who to call at that hour to inform Henry I wouldn’t be able to make it. David, extend my apologies to Henry.”
I wanted to scream! Not just because this sounded like a the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse, but even if it were true, he says he “didn’t know who to call.” How about the parole board (IPRB)? Any lawyer representing any parole applicant has to communicate with them and has their contact information. How about Alan Mills, the Professor who assigned him? How about Henry’s sister or his son or me, all of whose contact information he has? How about Henry at the prison? According to his story, he had all day Wednesday to think about this.
Well, hopefully this won’t end badly for Henry. He still has a chance at parole. The letters of support people wrote have gone to the parole board, I’m told. The student who is now in Chile plans to attend the en banc hearing in Springfield. I don’t know when that is scheduled.
As I’ve said before, to all who have shown interest and support, thank you. To those of you who pray, please continue doing so.
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