January 1, 2014: On New Year’s Eve day, a federal judge in Manhattan, Judge Koetl, ordered a compassionate release for Lynne F. Stewart, the former defense lawyer wrongly convicted of assisting terrorism, who was dying from cancer in a federal prison in Texas. Ms. Stewart arrived back in New York City sometime on New Year’s Day.
In 2005, Ms. Stewart, now 74, went to prison. In that same year, Ms. Stewart was also found to have breast cancer; by 2012, doctors determined that her cancer had spread to her lungs, lymph system and bones. Because it was determined that she was dying, Ms. Stewart sought compassionate release under a Bureau of Prisons program for terminally ill inmates.
The official request to Judge Koeltl came from the director of the Bureau of Prisons through the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
In a 12-page handwritten letter to the judge, Ms. Stewart said she did not want to die in prison, “a strange and loveless place,” as she put it. “I want to be where all is familiar — in a word, home.”
For her entire professional life, Lynne Stewart fearlessly defended the marginalized and powerless. She is a great person of enormous integrity who never deserved to be in prison in the first place and certainly not to die there. At last, Ms. Stewart is coming home to be among family and loved ones for the remainder of her time on this earth.