The attorney for the Defiance woman who’s serving 50 years in prison for killing her abusive husband delivered special paperwork to the governor’s office this morning. Dixie Shanahan Duty’s attorney, Greg Steensland, is asking Governor Vilsack to use his clemency powers to either reduce his client’s prison sentence, or put her on the fast track to parole. Steensland concedes the governor usually waits for the appeals process to run out before rendering a decision on clemency, but Steensland says Iowa’s governor has the authority to act immediately, if he wants.Steensland dropped off the paperwork asking for a clemency review of Shanahan Duty’s case. He also gave the governor and his staff 10 videotapes of the trial as well as a petition and letters from over six-hundred Defiance-area residents who want Shanahan Duty released from prison. Steensland says the community has let him know they do not believe justice was served in this case. Steensland says Shanahan Duty is “hopeful” Governor Vilsack will respond to her plight.Former Governor Terry Branstad commuted the sentence of a battered woman, but after she’d served years in prison. A governor has 10 years to act on a clemency request, but Matt Paul, the governor’s press secretary,says Vilsack will be briefed on the case when he returns from vacation on Monday. Paul says Governor Vilsack “believes every inmate who submits such a request deserves a thorough review in a timely fashion.” Paul says most individuals who apply for an early release have spent years, if not decades, in prison. Shanahan Duty was just sentenced on May 10th, but Paul says since every clemency case is unique, the governor will review her case. Paul says Vilsack is “respectful of the public’s interest and input in this case, but what has to be considered, primarily, is the fact of law.” Paul does say Governor Vilsack has long supported giving judges greater authority to set prison sentences, doing away with the “mandatory minimum” sentences spelled out in Iowa law — the reason Shanahan Duty got the 50 year term.
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