Letter to the Editor: Do members of State Pardon & Parole Board have a conscience?

To the editor:

Do members of State Pardon & Parole Board have a conscience?
When we learn of outrageous violent crimes anywhere, we are revolted. But when it happens in our hometown and its horror is unspeakable, one realizes it isn’t something that takes place in a far-off place but right at home!

Last Friday, July 13, Marie Kitchens,74, her great-grandson Colton Lee, age 7, and her neighbor, Martha Reliford, 65, were brutally murdered by a homeless man in a robbery attempt in Guntersville.
The suspected killer, Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, 52, has a long violent criminal history. He was serving a life sentence in an Alabama prison until January of this year, when he was released by the Alabama Pardons and Parole Board. Spencer was a native of Franklin County – across the state from Guntersville, where he had lived since his release. Franklin County district attorney Joey Rushing issued a terse emotional statement upon Spencer’s recent arrest expressing frustration on his failure to convince the AP&PB to deny his release. Rushing emphasized his anger to area media that despite having been sentenced to life, Spencer has now murdered three people, including a child!
Early release practices by the Pardons & Parole Board have been under scrutiny for a decade, with the current case being typical of gross mistakes in judgment.

So, where does the accountability lie? Is it people who are appointed through the political appointment system that is nothing more than politicians “taking care of their cronies” with lengthy high paying positions?

While victims, prosecutors and even judges can and do protest and oppose the release of violent criminals, they are, nonetheless, powerless to stop the Board’s decisions.
Somehow, this system just does not jive with our judicial system. When a jury decides the guilt of an offender, a judge passes sentence, the appeals court reviews the case and agrees, why should a handful of bureaucratic good old boys in Montgomery overrule and invalidate that procedure? Especially when it leads to the multiple deaths of innocent people?

Please keep in mind that while these deaths are devastating to the relatives, these crimes are against all the citizens of Alabama as well!
One has to wonder how members of the Pardons & Parole Board feel about the deaths of Martha Reliford, Marie Kitchens and her great-grandson, Colton Lee. Does the word conscience come to mind?

James W. Anderson
Marshall County native

 

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