SEATTLE -- For Dylan Tessier ’13 May 18 was a monumental day. Not only was it her last day of class for law school, but it was also the day she would testify in court for a case she has spent a year working on.
In December 2007, Guadalupe Solis-Diaz Jr. was sentenced to 92½ years in prison for a drive-by shooting in Centralia, WA. Solis-Diaz was convicted of six counts of first-degree assault and two other charges, even though no one was hurt. Now 21-years-old, Solis-Diaz is serving his sentence at the Washington Penitentiary.
Tessier began working with the Solis-Diaz case for a final writing project for Professor Kimberly Ambrose’s Juvenile Justice Seminar. Ambrose said Tessier was interested in writing about juvenile life without parole issues so she wrote a personal restraint petition for post-conviction relief on Solis-Diaz’s behalf, seeking to overturn his sentence as unconstitutional. Ambrose and Tessier filed the petition in the Court of Appeals, Division 2, last May.
“As it turned out, a group of Seattle attorneys were gathering last spring quarter to discuss how Washington advocates should deal with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Graham vs. Florida, which banned life without parole sentences for juveniles who do not commit homicide,” Ambrose said.
The attorneys identified the individuals in Washington who were serving long sentences for non-homicide crimes they committed as juveniles. One was Solis-Diaz.
In addition to Professor Ambrose, Tessier had help from other individuals from organizations.
“She did extensive research regarding the fairness of his sentence related to other sentences in different parts of the state and country,” Ambrose said. “She worked closely with Amici from the ACLU of Washington, the Washington Defender Association and the Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University.”
Tessier also contacted Solis-Diaz’s family members, visited them in Centralia and collected supportive declarations from them. She also obtained his school records and records from treatment when he was in a juvenile prison facility. Tessier also spent hours in Walla Walla visiting Solis-Diaz.
Tessier said she hopes her testament will shorten Solis-Diaz’s sentence and give him and his family hope for the future.
“Realistically, I know that any sentence that will give Jr. a chance to get out of prison in his lifetime is an improvement over the 92 year sentence has now,” Tessier said. “However, I am going to have a hard time accepting any sentence that keeps him in there for a really long time. He is a good kid with a lot of potential and it is completely unnecessary to keep him locked up for decades for something that happened in a few minutes of his life when he was 16-years-old.”
Now everyone must wait for the decision.
“Dylan did an excellent job arguing a very difficult case,” Ambrose said. “It is the first case of its kind in Washington.”
“Of course there are things I'd change if I could go back, but overall I think it went well,” Tessier said. “I was extremely nervous because we've been working with Jr. for over a year now and I wanted to do a good job. It helped to have so many people there in support, including Jr.'s family, some of the attorneys who wrote amicus briefs, and, of course, Professor Ambrose!”
Now Tessier is in Florida, where she is taking her bar exam and plans to practice.
“I've really enjoyed working on Jr.'s case, and I also enjoyed my time in the Innocence Project Clinic and at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, so I'd love to work in either the immigration or criminal law field. But we'll see what I can find in Florida,” Tessier said.