On March 19, 2024, Davis Polk pro bono client Edgardo Quirós-Morales was released from prison into the care of his wife and family after the Federal District Court in Puerto Rico granted his motion for compassionate release and reduced his sentence to 360 months. In 1998, Mr. Quirós-Morales was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 23 for one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs. At the time of his release, he had already served more than 26 years in prison.

Although Mr. Quirós-Morales had no prior criminal history, he was sentenced to life in prison because of a then-mandatory sentencing guideline cross-reference. Mr. Quirós-Morales’s sentencing judge applied this cross-reference without stating any basis for doing so. In a motion initially filed in 2021, the Davis Polk team argued that the absence of any factual basis for the cross-reference, the disparity between Mr. Quirós-Morales’s sentence and those of similarly situated co-defendants (who did not receive life sentences), and Mr. Quirós-Morales’s tremendous personal achievements and rehabilitation during his decades of incarceration constituted extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting compassionate release.

Following the Court’s initial denial of Mr. Quirós-Morales’s motion, the Davis Polk team appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where Civil Litigation associate Marie Killmond argued. The First Circuit vacated the decision and remanded to the district court, where the Davis Polk team conducted supplemental briefing before a new judge. In addition, at the Court’s request, the Probation Office submitted a statement which confirmed that, although it had recommended the cross-reference in 1998, it could identify no basis for this recommendation and under the circumstances it concluded that compassionate release could be appropriate in this matter. On March 15, 2024, the Court issued a 29-page opinion granting Mr. Quirós-Morales’s motion for compassionate release. The opinion adopted many of Mr. Quirós-Morales’s arguments, including that the application of the cross-reference had been improper and the “government’s current insistence” otherwise was “ludicrous.” The Court also noted that its “reasoning is mainly based on the well supported arguments raised by Defendant through his pro hac vice attorneys, in his exhaustive and comprehensive filings before and after remand in this case.”

The Davis Polk team includes associates Marie Killmond, Kennedi Williams-Libert, Anna Simonovsky, and former associate Christopher Johnson. Chief Pro Bono Counsel Amelia Starr, senior counsel Sharon Katz and Counsel, Head of Racial Justice Pro Bono Diane Lucas provided supervision. Associate Henry Goldberg assisted with coordinating Mr. Quirós-Morales’s release following the March 15 opinion.

Learn more about Davis Polk’s Pro Bono program.