Chris Young from The Vanishing Trial Is Finally Freed

Back in October 2020, I shared our emotional story about The Vanishing Trial, a documentary released by FAMM and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) about the “trial penalty” that creates unrelenting pressure on people facing criminal proceedings where mandatory minimums and other sentencing maneuvers are in play. Our webinar exposes what is actually happening in our criminal justice system every day.

We have some fantastic news to share for one lucky person, Chris Young, whose Sixth Amendment rights were not adequately protected by our court system. His story was featured in The Vanishing Trial, and he was granted clemency on President Trump’s last day in office. If you’ve watched the film, you know that the judge in his case felt the sentencing was so unfair that he later left the bench, knowing he could not continue to mete out sentences such as the one Chris received.

Judge Kevin Sharp and Chris’s lawyer, Brittany Barnett (also in the film), remained strong advocates for him. And Chris’s story attracted the attention of celebrities and others who campaigned for his release. We’re happy to share this incredible video that Barnett took of Chris being greeted at the airport by Judge Sharp as he came home. 

It’s important to remember that there are many, many cases like Chris Young’s, where people remain in prison because their Sixth Amendment rights were not protected. Chris was lucky to have so much support and to have been one of the lucky few to receive clemency, a process that seems arbitrary. His release is a great reminder of why The Vanishing Trial is a concern for those who believe in protecting our constitutional rights.

Editor’s note: Debi Ghate serves on the board of directors of FAMM.

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