January 5, 2021
Carol Jacobsen, Stamps professor, social documentary artist, and director of the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project, was featured in the Detroit Free Press for her recent collaboration with the University of Michigan Law School’s Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic. The team is seeking clemency for seven incarcerated Michigan citizens, starting with LuAnne Szenay.
A survivor of domestic violence, Szenay retaliated against her abuser after law enforcement repeatedly failed to take meaningful action to ensure her protection. She was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy nearly 30 years ago.
Szenay is now seeking clemency with the support of the Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic with the hope the parole board and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will view her punishment of life without parole as part of a systemic problem, one in which the justice system fails women who’ve suffered domestic violence and abuse.
Jacobsen estimates that about 175 women are incarcerated in state prison for first- or second-degree murder convictions for crimes linked to domestic abuse.
“In many cases, those women have had attorneys who are not experienced in representing women like this. ... They just don’t know how to question an expert witness (about domestic violence) and or even call an expert witness,” she said.