Says second chances in life are important
By JOSH RESNEK
Governor’s Councilor Attorney Terrence Kennedy has taken center stage in an effort to pressure the Parole Board and the Baker Administration to resume pardon and commutation hearings.
Over the past 23 years, one Massachusetts inmate has been granted a commutation, a record of inaction that Kennedy called “outrageous,” in a Boston Globe report Monday that highlighted the issue.
“The whole commutation-pardon system exists for a reason,” Kennedy said. “When they turn their lives around and do the right things, they should have a meaningful opportunity to have a second chance.”
There are 117 commutation and 209 pardon petitions pending before the Parole Board, said Jake Wark, a spokesman. The state constitution gives the governor authority to grant clemency, or leniency, to those convicted of crimes. A commutation reduces an inmate’s sentence, paving the way for immediate release or parole eligibility, while a pardon erases a conviction.
In May, the Massachusetts Parole Board notified those with pending clemency petitions that they could update them in light of new guidelines Baker approved in February.
Commutations are “an extraordinary remedy” and are “intended to serve as a strong motivation for confined persons to utilize available resources for self-development and self-improvement as an incentive for them to become law-abiding citizens and return to society,” the guidelines state.
By law, the Governor’s Council provides advice and consent in matters such as judicial nominations, pardons and commutations to the governor.
Kennedy, who was re-elected for another term last week, has served for longer than a decade.
During this time, he has led the council into its newest iteration, that is, an important non-executive advisory body relied upon by the governor.
Kennedy has aided in restoring the importance and the integrity of the council during his tenure.
The new move toward hearing commutation requests comes on the heels of a case highlighted in the Globe.
A young Marine shot and killed an innocent bystander during a tragic turn of events during a night out that brought together rival groups from Brockton and New Bedford which quickly escalated as it spilled into the streets.
Bottom line in this incident, a young man just out of the Marines shot and killed a 24 year old while he and his friends were trying to escape a rival gang.
The shooter never intended to shoot anyone, according to court records. He fired in self-defense fearing for his life.
He meant the shot to scare off the crowd.
That shooter has been in jail without parole for 28 years.
He rejected a deal with prosecutors that would have allowed him to get out after five to 10 years in prison.
He was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to life without parole.
A decade ago the trial prosecutor unsuccessfully urged the Massachusetts Parole Board to reduce the shooter’s life sentence, saying he believed it was unjust because premeditation wasn’t proven.
Now, after 28 years in prison, the shooter has a chance at freedom, the first Massachusetts inmate to be granted a commutation hearing in six years.
Just one Massachusetts inmate has been granted a commutation over the past 23 years.
Kennedy says that isn’t just and it isn’t fair, and it isn’t right.
The inmate now being considered for a commutation hearing at 53 years old.
He has turned his life around.
He is the example by which commutation should be given a chance, according to Kennedy.
After the parole board holds a hearing, it makes a recommendation to the governor. If the governor grants a commutation or pardon, it goes to the Governor’s Council for final approval.
The prosecutor who put the inmate in prison went to his death bemoaning the fact he sent him away for life.
The case bothered his conscience, he said.
“I cannot be silent when I helped bring about the conviction of a man for the wrong crime, a verdict that went too far,” the late prosecutor wrote to the Parole Board after testifying at a 2010 hearing.
The family of the man the inmate killed wants him to remain in prison for the remainder of his life.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said he is reviewing the case to decide whether he will oppose the current commutation petition.