When I visited Lynne Stewart at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas last month, in a dark moment she wondered whether the cynicism of the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) might descend to the level of denying her the then much expected compassionate release. Whether these agencies might sight as grounds for such denial that her initial rounds of chemotherapy had slightly reduced in size some of the malignant tumors in her lymph nodes, sternum and back while leaving the most threatening of her Stage Four breast cancer tumors in her lungs unaffected could not but cross her mind.
At that moment Lynne had good reason to expect that her release was imminent.
It was recommended by the FMC warden and New York-based probationary officials
had inspected and approved an appropriate Brooklyn family residence where she
would reside during treatment and for permanent proper care. Lynne even
pointed to statements from her Fort Worth hospital oncologist to the effect
that it was likely that they would not see each other again, implying that she
too recognized that Lynne's only serious hope for life was to be rapidly
transferred to the world renowned Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York
On June 25 Lynne's most feared outcome was confirmed in a three-paragraph
letter from BOP General Counsel Kathleen M. Kennedy in Washington, D.C.
Kennedy denied Lynne's request because Lynne's "health is improving," and that
her situation is "not extraordinary and compelling."
Lynne's response, "Disappointed But Not Devastated" (See below.) indicates
that her legal team intends to appeal this decision to Judge John Koeltl, the
judge who initially sentenced her to 28 months in prison but who later acceded
to political pressure, ordered a new sentencing hearing, and condemned Lynne
to ten years at FMC Carswell.
Stewart's case is the first in many years to expose yet another blatant
government violation of U.S. law, this one mandating compassionate release in
specified circumstances that particularly apply to Lynne. Indeed this 1984 law
has been virtually ignored, according to the government's own study, with
barely a dozen people being granted compassionate release annually out of
hundreds of thousands of federal prisoners over the past 30 years.
The scientific community considers Stage Four breast cancer to be incurable.
But many prominent institutions have noted that with excellent medical care
and high patient motivation, life can extended in some circumstances for
several years. The Fort Worth medical facility that FMC Carswell uses and the
conditions under which Lynne is permitted to receive treatment are far from
"excellent." She is literally shackled hand and foot and around her belly
while be taken to and from this facility. The results of her treatments are
routinely withheld for months, while necessary follow-up treatments are
delayed, as was the case when a newly discovered tumor in one lung was ignored
and soon after metastasized to the other and beyond.
Yet the most optimistic prospects for Lynne to live a few more years, provided
she receives "excellent" treatment are used to reject her request. In the
BOP's view Lynne must be not only dying but virtually near death to qualify
for compassionate release. The fight for her release now, Lynne repeatedly
states, is a matter of life and death.
Lynne's request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear her appeal is pending and
could be decided soon. If the hateful authorities at the BOP continue to
reject her compassionate release request, she could well be found innocent of
the frame-up terrorist conspiracy charges against her as a result of being the
lead counsel in the internationally watched case of the "blind sheik" Omar
Abdel Rachman and yet too close to death to experience but a few weeks or
months of life as a vindicated and free woman.
There is no time to delay. Join the fight for Lynne's life and freedom now.
• US Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels: 202-307-3198-ext. 3
• US Attorney General Eric Holder: 202-514-2001
• President Barack Obama: 202-456-1111