Mark Osler – Clemency Attorney


Mark Osler is a tireless advocate for sentencing and clemency reform.  He is currently a Law Professor and the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was recently selected as Professor of the Year by the graduating class of 2016.  At St. Thomas, he founded the nation’s first law school clinic devoted to federal commutation work.

Following Obama’s Clemency initiative in 2014, Osler, along with Rachel Barkow, Professor of Law at NYU School of Law, co-founded the Clemency Resource Center (CRC) within the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law (CACL), as “a factory of justice” to prepare and submit clemency petitions for federal prisoners.  Osler also trained hundreds of lawyers to work with the Clemency Project 2014 (now closed).

Osler helped get the mandatory 100-to-1 ratio in the federal sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine struck down, first filing an amicus brief in Kimbrough v. United States (2007), and later by winning the case of Spears v. United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that judges could categorically reject the crack/powder cocaine ratio.

He has testified as an expert before Congress and the United States Sentencing Commission.  He is sought-after as a guest on radio and television, appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition and ABC’s Good Morning America, and as a guest editorialist, appearing in The New York Times and The Washington Post.   He has been featured in Rolling Stone magazine and The American Prospect.

Osler’s sentencing and clemency reform work stems from his own experiences and Christian values.  He has authored two books describing those experiences and values: Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment (Abingdon Press 2009), using the trial and execution of Jesus to critique the death penalty, and Prosecuting Jesus (Westminster John Knox Press 2016), describing his work performing Jesus’ trial throughout eleven states, in which he acted as prosecutor seeking the Jesus’ execution.

Osler has represented a number of Drug War prisoners and filed their commutation petitions pro bono, including for Weldon Angelos and Rudy Martinez, whose stories have been featured here.

Read Mark’s full story and interview here.