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July 14, 2008

Examining parole law and policy for killers in California

The Los Angeles Times yesterday had this interesting piece on parole law and policy in California.  Here is how the article begins:

Sandra Davis Lawrence is grateful for the simple things she can do now, like pick up her grandniece from school. And she is anxious to make up for lost time, to find a career and start earning money again.

Lawrence spent 24 years in state prison for murdering her lover's wife with a gun and a potato peeler while in a jealous rage.  A model inmate, she received a second chance at freedom last summer when a court ordered her released. Since then, she has reunited with family in Los Angeles and tried to re-integrate into society at age 61....

But Lawrence may have to return to prison instead, if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can convince the California Supreme Court that she remains a threat to public safety.  That she has had no problems with the law in a year of freedom is irrelevant, the governor's office said; she should not have been let out.

The court is poised in coming weeks to seal Lawrence's fate, along with that of nine other convicted murderers seeking freedom.  The justices are expected to answer some difficult questions: When should a killer be set free?  What are the limits, if any, on the governor's power to decide?  Are such factors as an inmate's prison record and age ever more significant than a horrendous crime committed decades ago?

July 14, 2008 at 08:31 AM | Permalink

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