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Listen: Alfonzo Riley Prevails Over Malicious Judges, Excessive Sentencing

Alfonzo Riley, a paralegal casehandler in The Legal Aid Society’s Wrongful Conviction Unit, appeared on the Open Mike podcast to discuss his journey from prison to becoming an advocate dedicated to fighting against harsh and excessive sentencing.

While Riley (19 at the time) participated in a drug sale, he was two floors below where the homicide in question occurred. He was nevertheless convicted under New York’s controversial felony murder statute and sentenced to 71 years to life – essentially a death sentence – despite never pulling the trigger.

Determined to dedicate himself to bringing awareness to the plague of excessive sentencing in our criminal justice system, Riley acquired first his bachelor’s degree and then a paralegal certificate in prison before finally receiving clemency from Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was released in 2019 after serving 30 years in prison, and finally found his place working in the Legal Aid’s Wrongful Conviction Unit, which was established in 2019 to investigate cases of possible wrongful conviction and work towards exonerating people.

“The worst day out here is far better than the best day inside,” Riley said, noting a new appreciation for the life he now lives advocating for those suffering in prison, including the recent high-profile success in the case of James Davis. “We are working on many more that we have in our queue.”

Check out the full segment below.