Friday, August 27, 2010

NC Supreme Court Issues Decision in Old Life with Parole Cases

Life With Parole, a sentence that was replaced with life without parole in 1994, from 1974-1978 meant a maximum term of 80 years, with parole eligibility.

As you may have heard, a group of prisoners sued seeking release on the argument that, under DOC regulations giving you 2 days credit for each day in jail without rule-breaking (plus some other jail credits), they were entitled to release as they had served their 80 years.

Today, the Supreme Court took away the relief granted by the lower courts, by claiming that the DOC regulations (which included no specific exception for persons sentenced to life with parole and had been keeping records on those incarcerated for "life", tallying their good behavior and other credits) didn't apply to life sentences. The basis for that holding is explained in Jones v. Keller. Are you convinced?

One has to wonder if elected judges can ever protect the liberty interests of society's least likeable citizens. To their credit, Justice Timmons-Goodson, joined by Justice Hudson, dissented, saying:

The rule of law, consistency, and fundamental fairness are not advanced by today’s decision allowing the Department of Correction (DOC) to withhold inmate Alford Jones’s accumulated sentence reduction credits. This decision violates the DOC’s own regulations and policies, Jones’s constitutional rights, and the doctrine of separation of powers. And by doing so, I fear that a cornerstone of our legal system, the writ of habeas corpus, is devalued. The undisputed record reflects that Jones has fully served his term of imprisonment and is thereby entitled to immediate unconditional release. The decision to the contrary offends all notions of fundamental fairness. I therefore respectfully dissent.

Will update with summaries of the other cases soon.

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