Clemency for Battered Women in Michigan:

A Manual for Attorneys, Law Students and Social Workers



Founders Picture

In 1998, Jaunita Thomas was the first woman freed via the Clemency project, through a Motion for Relief from Judgment.
(L to R: Carol Jacobsen, Juanita Thomas, Susan Fair, Photo: Susan Gardner)



Susan Fair founded the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project in 1991. Volunteer attorneys and advocates joined with her and distributed questionnaires to women in two Michigan prisons. Their aim was to identify women inmates who were convicted of murder and for whom the battered woman syndrome was an explanatory defense, but for whom that evidence was either not raised, raised inadequately, or rejected by the judge. Approximately 50 women were interviewed; 25 were identified as primary candidates for clemency petitions.

In June of 1995, the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project became a project of the Justice Committee of the Washtenaw County, Michigan ACLU. Lynn D'Orio, Lore Rogers, and Carol Jacobsen currently coordinate the Clemency Project. Lynn D'Orio is an attorney who began working with the Clemency Project as a law student in 1991. She is a member of the Washtenaw County ACLU. Lore Rogers, an attorney, is Legal Advocacy Director at Domestic Violence Project, Inc/SAFE house and previously served on the State Board of the ACLU. Carol Jacobsen is an artist and independent producer of documentaries on women in prison. She is the Chair of the Justice Committee of the Washtenaw County ACLU.


In March 1995, Lynn D'Orio and Carol Jacobsen filed the first petition for clemency with the Michigan Parole Board on behalf of Violet Allen. In six short weeks, Governor Engler denied the petition with no explanation. The next petition, on behalf of Delores Kapuscinski, was also denied. Four more petitions for clemency were submitted to the Parole Board in April 1998. As of this writing, no decision has been announced on those four petitions.


The Parole Board and the Governor of Michigan have thus far shown little interest in our cause. Their vote-getting "tough on crime" platform comes at the expense of keeping motivated and productive women who pose no threat to society incarcerated into old age at the taxpayer's expense. This is unacceptable.


This manual was written to serve both as an educational tool and as a practical resource to aid in the compiling of successful clemency petitions. We hope it will inspire you to work for the release of battered women, many of whom have spent half their lives as the victims of violent relationships and the other half in prison.


Thank you for your interest in the Clemency Project.