President Obama on Monday granted the petitions for clemency of 231 federal prison inmates, and one of those inmates was 44-year-old Michael Holmes.
As part of the largest group of clemencies ever granted in a single day, Holmes will be leaving prison after serving 18 years of a life sentence for drug crimes. His brother Vincent, who has been advocating for Michael’s release for years, had heard from a contact in Washington, D.C., that there might be an announcement today.
“I had a notification that there were going to be some clemencies today, and I had a weird feeling in my body,” Vincent said while driving to his parents’ house to celebrate. “I thought about all the work that’s been done these 18 years. I knew he was going to be on that list today. I just felt something.”
Nevertheless, Vincent was overwhelmed when he got the call from Michael while he was driving.
“I have always been talking about what we’re going to do when he gets out,” Vincent said.
In 1998, at the age of 26, Michael was among 30 men charged in a drug conspiracy in rural McKinney, Texas. Three of those men were sentenced to life, including Michael. Both of the other lifers were released in 2015, and Michael began to fear that his petition was being overlooked.
“I think about my co-defendants who are back with their families,” Michael said in a phone interview with VICE News from prison in November. “My only shot is clemency.”
The three men’s life sentences are among the 395 that have been commuted by Obama during his presidency. Many inmates have been clamoring for Obama to grant them clemency before he leaves office, believing Donald Trump will never do so.
Michael will be released in April, and his brother says they have plans to open a restaurant. Michael is the head cook at the Arkansas prison.
“He’s the best cook in the whole prison system,” Vincent said. “He’s going to hit the ground running.”