Rare video from federal prison made Kim Kardashian lobby President Trump for Johnson’s clemency
Johnson's clemency was different from other commutation cases, as her plea did not go through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which is the standard Justice Department process
President Donald Trump granted clemency to a 63-year-old great-grandmother, Alice Marie Johnson, on Wednesday. Johnson was serving life sentence for a non-violent drug offense and had served nearly 22 years in federal prison. The Republican's decision was spurred by a push from Kim Kardashian who visited the president almost a week ago to talk about Johnson's case.
The popular reality television personality's push for Johnson's clemency made everyone wonder what made the celebrity particularly choose the great-grandmother's case? It was a rare clip of Johnson video conferencing in the prison she was held at.
Johnson's clemency was different from other pardon and commutation cases as her plea did not go through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which is the standard Justice Department process. Johnson was earlier denied a commutation through the process under former President Barack Obama.
The clip of Johnson talking about her experience is deemed rare because the Federal Bureau of Prisons generally does not allow such video interviews with an inmate. However, Johnson was luckily placed in a federal prison — Aliceville Federal Correctional Institution in Alabama — which allows its inmates access to video conferencing through Skype, according to reports.
The prison facility's pilot program was announced by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced in 2016 and helped grant videoconferencing access to BOP's female prisons, HuffPost reported.
Mic, a media organization, recorded an interview with Johnson last year and the video soon became viral. It also caught Kardashian's attention when she saw it on her Twitter feed, and she said, the clip moved her emotionally and spurred her to take action immediately.
While talking to HuffPost, an attorney who has known Johnson for a decade and a co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, Brittany Byrd, said that she believed the video played a crucial role in making Johnson's voice heard.
"I think it was very important for people to actually see Ms. Alice tell her own story, and that really brought people proximate to Alice and her plight," Byrd said.
The attorney, who recently spoke to Johnson after her clemency was granted, said that Johnson felt that she had been "resurrected from the dead" after she heard the news of her release.
"We’re so grateful to the president for allowing Alice to go home after 21 years in prison and very grateful to Kim Kardashian for using her platform to advocate on Alice’s behalf. We’re really hoping that Alice’s case has shown a light on the thousands of people buried alive by life sentences and that President Trump will find it in his heart to grant more,” Byrd added.
The White House released a statement while announcing Johnson's clemency grant, stating that she "has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades" who had "worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates."
While the administration "will always be very tough on crime," the White House "believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance."