BUFFALO, N.Y. — David Sell, 46, is serving a 43.5-year-to-life sentence for a 1995 murder. He's not eligible for parole until he turns 61 in 2036. So far he's served 26 years behind bars.
Steven Zeidman of the CUNY Law School and a group of students are looking into cases for gubernatorial clemency, including the Sell case.
"The question becomes how much punishment is enough," Zeidman said. "The governor can commute their sentence and release them immediately or reduce the sentence of, like, 50-to-life to 25-to-life to give someone a shot at making the parole board."
Law students filed Sell's clemency application in 2019.
In a video interview with CUNY, Sell spoke openly about where he is now.
"I had to become honest with myself, that I caused the death of Sheldon. The person I am today would have told David to walk away," Sell said.
"I don't want somebody else's family to experience what the Newkirk family experiences. Change is mandatory for me."
Clemency is up to Gov. Kathy Hochul. Earlier this week she was asked about clemency for inmates due to COVID-19 and aging.
Hochul said, "We're reviewing clemency requests. I don't know that they would be related to COVID right now because, as I said, the conditions are different than they were at the outset, when we didn't have vaccinations and boosters."
Sell was one of the first prison COVID cases in New York.
Zeidman said it is an opportunity "to step back and widen the lens and say, 'Why aren't I using my clemency power 365 days of the year?' "
2 On Your Side has reached out to the governor's office to see if the Sell case is being considered. This is the response received from Governor Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays:
“While we cannot comment on pending clemency applications as the process is confidential, Governor Hochul is committed to improving justice, fairness, and safety in the criminal justice system, and we are reviewing applications in that context.”