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November 20, 2009

NC Governor trying every possible means to avoid releasing certain prisoners

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Perdue: Lifers got no time credits; More questions arise in controversy over life-sentence inmates seeking to be released," the Governor of North Carolina is trying every possible means to avoid the release of certain lifers pursuant to a state supreme court ruling. Here are the particulars of an interesting controversy:

Gov. Bev Perdue's third take: Prison officials never doled out credits for good behavior to those sentenced to life in the 1970s. It's the latest position Perdue's administration has taken on the question of freedom for dozens of inmates convicted of murder, rape and robbery more than three decades ago. The inmates have argued in court that state law and prison policies entitle them to immediate release.

Perdue said Thursday that she and prison officials will be happy to release them in 2054, when the youngest and healthiest among them will be approaching 100.

Six weeks ago, the state's highest court affirmed that a law in place in the 1970s defined a life sentence as 80 years, but only for lifers sentenced between 1974 and 1978. The inmates argued that policies in place then entitled them to credit for good behavior and meant that they should go free.

The administration at first appeared to agree. Within days, prison officials made a list of inmates in that category and began preparing for their release. They called the inmates' mothers and fathers; they warned the families of the victims.

Perdue then said she would not stand for it. Days before prison officials promised to turn the first batch of inmates loose, Perdue forbade their release, saying prison officials never had the authority to award the credits. On Thursday, she offered a third stance: The Department of Correction had never awarded those credits and never meant to....

Advocates for the prisoners met the governor's newest tack with exasperation. "This is simply an extension of the state's political efforts to buttress the governor's sagging poll ratings by defying the rule of law," said Staples Hughes, the state appellate defender, whose office has represented some of the inmates. "We don't believe they will be able to substantiate their opinion in a court of law before impartial judges."

Republican legislators were also befuddled. "This entire controversy was caused by the governor's own department misunderstanding an appellate court decision, miscalculating sentence credits, and misinforming victims and the public," House Minority Leader Paul Stam of Wake County said in a statement Thursday. "Now, she claims credit for protecting us from her own error. This is really appalling and inexplicable."

Ultimately, the courts will be asked to settle the issue of credits. In the coming months, superior court judges across the state will be forced to settle the matter in cases filed by inmates sentenced to life in the 1970s.

Hughes said he has great faith that judges will free the inmates. "Every lawyer reading this can come but to one conclusion: The dates that DOC calculated immediately after (the court's ruling) are more or less accurate and this is nothing more than a continued defiance of the law," he said.

November 20, 2009 at 03:59 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The profile in political cowardice continues. What happened to a government of laws, not a government of (wo)men?

Posted by: Anon | Nov 20, 2009 4:37:42 PM

Bill, you around? Since you never answered the dog license question on respect for the law, please answer this one. What is the politics behind this? Is it to promote respect for contempt of the law? Or do you think the state's high court must be bleeding heart liberals for interpreting the law as written?

Posted by: George | Nov 20, 2009 10:26:57 PM

i think she might just end up in one of her OWN prisons if the lawyers for the inmates can PROVE they did in fact issue "goodtime credits" back in the 1970's since at that point...she has comitted FRAUD and in fact LIED to the court!

just show's she's another politician not worth the bullet it would take to get rid of her.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Nov 21, 2009 3:29:02 AM

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