Local Politics

Pending inmate releases could prompt legislative session

Posted November 5, 2009
Updated November 19, 2009

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— As the legal battle to keep 27 inmates in prison brews, some state officials are considering a back-up plan to address the issue.

The 27 inmates were scheduled to be released last Thursday after the state Supreme Court agreed with double murderer Bobby Bowden, who contended that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as 80 years and sued for his release.

Lawmakers could weigh in on release of inmates Lawmakers could weigh in on release of inmates

The 1981 Fair Sentencing Act included a retroactive provision that essentially cut all of those sentences in half, and good behavior and other credits have shortened the sentences to the point that they are now complete.

Gov. Beverly Perdue opposes the releases, saying that the convicted killers and rapists would be let out from prison with no provision for any continued supervision after their release. Over time, she said, more than 120 people serving life sentences could qualify for early release under the Supreme Court's ruling.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes to play every card in the deck to keep these prisoners in jail," Perdue said.

That includes possibly calling a special session of the General Assembly to address the issue.

The 2010 legislative session doesn't begin until May, and the Supreme Court could rule on Perdue's efforts to block the inmates' release long before that. Court arguments are expected in the next month.

"I do know if there was a session what kind of legislation I would ask for. I have a staff working on that," she said, adding that she hopes she doesn't have to bring lawmakers to Raleigh.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said lawmakers also are looking for solutions to the inmate releases.

"(We're) trying to figure out what we can do in the constitutional fashion," said Rand, who announced Wednesday that he will resign his legislative seat in the coming weeks to become chairman of the state Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.

"If the need arises to protect the people of North Carolina, I would hope there would be (a special session)," he said.

No legislation could be passed that would retroactively extend the prisoners' sentences, Rand said, but lawmakers might be able to put supervision conditions on them after their release.

Raleigh defense attorney Karl Knudsen said it would be unconstitutional for the General Assembly to add an additional punishment or requirements on the inmates after the fact.

"You can make (the sentence) better, but you can't make it worse," Knudsen said.

He said a special legislative session "would be a waste of money."

A special session would cost North Carolina taxpayers about $50,000 a day for legislative staff salaries, travel expenses and daily allowances for lawmakers.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • ncsufamily24 Nov 6, 2009


    While you continue to rant on about Bush, keep in mind that had these criminals committed their crimes in the state of Texas,
    more than likely, they would have received the death penalty and
    executed long ago. Surely knowing this will help erase some of the hate you have for Bush. Just give it some thought.....

  • Tarheelfan13 Nov 6, 2009

    Quite frankly if they are holding them just to grandstand and know that good behavior credits are not the issue than these inmates are being unlawfully incarcarated which is likely going to end up costing the taxpayers money in possible civil suits. Honestly, the federal government needs to step in because their federal civil rights are actually being violated by the state of North Carolina. And let me say that yes I do realize these men have done terrible crimes and I am an ardent supporter of being tough on crime probably more so than most. But the law is the law and North Carolina needs to be held accountable for possible false inprisonment.

  • Armando de Cabana Boy Nov 6, 2009

    pbjbeach: As usual, your comment makes absolutely no sense. George Bush has absolutely nothing to do with this story.

  • nccowbo Nov 6, 2009

    It is all about spending more money, what is it going to cost us now?? They are going to get out and then turn around and sue the state for millions due to not releasing them on the dates they should have. A court will uphold their claim that the state held them under unlawful reasons. And you and I will pay even more taxes for the lawsuites they will win. Let them out, give them big money now,it will be cheaper in the long run.

  • pbjbeach Nov 6, 2009

    If you ask me every since the bush adminstration has been in charge of this country there are no longer any constitutionaly right to be provide to an indivsual citizens as that they have allowed for the states rights to take precedence over the indivsuals rights an this is proabbly why that state employees also no longer have any work place rights within the woprkplace because everything has gone over to state rights. an state right are being abused in order to suppress an indivsuals rights in the work place or any where else

  • Armando de Cabana Boy Nov 6, 2009

    NOOOO!! No need to waste our tax $$ for this. As musch as I beleive these people need to spend their life behind bars, there is a loophole that is going to set them free. I hate it, but as they say, the law is the law, and the courts have ordered them released.

  • fatchanceimwrong Nov 6, 2009

    Doesn't Bev have a convicted murderer working on her staff? Maybe she could hire them all to work for her once they get out.

  • Tarheelfan13 Nov 6, 2009

    The legislative session would just be a waste of time because ex post facto is Constitutionally illegal in this country. As much as I am not happy about these inmates being released, the defense attorney is right and the law is on the inmates side. It would not surprise me if it took a federal judge to override the governor and order the prisoners released.

  • mrr03 Nov 6, 2009

    Hey GOV..Here is a great idea..You don't like the ruling..Appeal the case to the Fed's or LET THE PRISONERS GO as the NC Supreme COURT ORDERED..YOU Governor can't abuse what the courts have said..Why don't you just start disobeying the Constitution altogether..It seems that where you are headed...remindes me of a spolied child who does not like the game so you take all the marbles and go home..

  • pbjbeach Nov 6, 2009

    I think that if the governor of this state is truely the leader of this then she if she wants these prisoners do to be realeased then she has the authority to issue an exective order to allowed them to continue to be held in prison. I fail tosee the reasoning behind the governor having to call a special sesion of the legisture back into session an to have to foot the bill for this expentiture of taxpayers funding to bring the legisture back into special sesion to handle this one issue. Let the governor rule the state by exective order just as Bush has ruled the entire country by exective order an be da-- the general public an what they say or think this is the country of the politician for the politicians an by the politicians thank you