Friendship
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PHOTOS: Spencer Letts and Michael Banyard

District Court Judge Spencer Letts, left, and Michael Banyard have developed a close friendship. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Banyard smokes a cigarette outside the transitional home where he’s living. Letts took his case on appeal because it “just rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “Twenty-five years, no guarantee of ever leaving, for that amount of cocaine?” (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Banyard, left, and Spencer Letts meet from time to time for conversation and sandwiches in the judge’s chambers in downtown Los Angeles. Letts, reviewing Banyard’s appeal of a three-strikes sentence, ordered Banyard released from prison in 2004. The two have since developed a friendship. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Banyard, an ex-convict and former Compton gang member, congratulates Chasten Stephens, 17, during the graduation of seven students from a Taylor Family Foundation for Kids program at Jordan High School. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
“It is all too easy for a judge to just put a C for convicted on a guy’s forehead and then to walk away,” says District Judge Spencer Letts. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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