On March 23, 2010, EJI honored George Kendall, Director of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey’s Public Service Initiative, and Thomas Sager, general counsel of the DuPont Company and DuPont’s legal department, with its Equal Justice Award. The second annual award event celebrated the triumph of Diane Jones, the first woman in Alabama to be released from Tutwiler Prison after being sentenced to life in prison without parole.
George Kendall has devoted his career to challenging injustice and inequality in the criminal justice system. For over 30 years, with the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Holland & Knight, he has provided invaluable legal assistance to condemned and incarcerated prisoners across the country.
Mr. Kendall currently directs an innovative pro bono project at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. A pivotal leader in challenging efforts in Congress to dismantle the writ of habeas corpus, he has received numerous awards for his outstanding work.
In accepting EJI’s Equal Justice Award, Mr. Kendall expressed gratitude for the guidance and support of his mentors, colleagues, and family, and stressed the profound importance of working to challenge injustice and inequality.
Thomas Sager and the DuPont Legal Department were honored for visionary leadership in promoting diversity in the legal profession. DuPont’s Convergence and Law Firm Partnering Program has become an industry leader and received national acclaim for its innovative approach to the practice of law.
DuPont Legal reaches out to underprivileged youth through long-standing initiatives like its Street Law Diversity Pipeline Program in Wilimington, Delaware. It insists on diversity in the law firm teams that work on DuPont matters, holds Minority Job Fairs, and presents an annual company-wide Black History Month program.
Mr. Sager explained that DuPont Legal’s commitment to diversity is not only a matter of fairness but also good business. Mr. Sager extended the same commitment to EJI in his gracious acceptance speech Tuesday night.
Together with EJI’s recent achievements, including wins in four death-penalty cases in the last several months, the event also celebrated the release of Diane Jones, who was wrongly convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to life in prison without parole after her ex-boyfriend used her former residence to sell drugs.
EJI became involved in the case with just one day remaining before Ms. Jones would be permanently barred from challenging her wrongful conviction. In 2005, after four years of litigation, EJI won a new trial. The charges against Ms. Jones were dismissed in 2006 and she was released from prison.
At the event, Ms. Jones wiped away tears as she described the terror of being imprisoned for an offense she did not commit, the joy of being reunited with her family, and her deep gratitude to EJI for winning her freedom.