Luis Anthony Rivera, 59, a wonderful man doing life without parole for cocaine since 1983, was released suddenly Tuesday night under the groundbreaking “Holloway doctrine” that permits reducing sentences that are unduly harsh yet technically correct.

Attorney Sam S. Sheldon

Attorney Sam S. Sheldon

Sam S. Sheldon, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is the tour de force behind this important legal innovation, which could play a huge role in winning early releases for those serving multi-decade federal sentences.

His motion to win Luis’ freedom describes the Holloway doctrine this way:

“The Holloway decision recognizes that district courts have the discretion, inherent in our American system of justice, to subsequently reduce a defendant’s sentence in the interest of fairness — ‘even after all appeals and collateral attacks have been exhausted ands there is neither a claim of innocence nor any defect in the conviction or sentence’ — when it has clearly been demonstrated that the original sentence sought by the United States and imposed by the court (even when mandated by law) is revealed to be disproportionately severe.”

As a practical matter, the support (or lack of opposition) from prosecutors is crucial, as is a strong behavior record in prison.

U.S. Attorney Mark Green

U.S. Attorney Mark Green

U.S. Attorney Mark F. Green supported Luis’ release: “Based upon his exceptional conduct in prison and the time served, the United States Attorney’s Office feels that Rivera’s 30 years of incarceration is sufficient punishment for the crime committed.”

Francois Holloway, then 57, was granted early release in July 2014 after serving two decades in federal prison for carjacking. The U.S. Attorney who supported Holloway’s release: Loretta E. Lynch, now U.S. Attorney General.

richard e davis lawyer

Richard E. Davis of Birmingham, Ala.

The Los Angeles Times gives an excellent overview of what happened in Luis’ case.

The legal documents in Luis’ case are provided here:


Luis, now 58, is serving life without parole in federal prison for a non-violent cocaine offense

Luis Rivera, arrested in 1983 and sentenced in 1985, shown with close family friends



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