Lexington, N.C. — Manley Porter, 61, was supposed to spend the rest of his life in prison for raping a woman while robbing a Winston-Salem convenience store. But because of a loophole in North Carolina law, he and 19 other violent criminals will be released next week.
"They just called me to the office and told me I was supposed to be getting out," Porter told WFMY-TV.
The inmates are scheduled to be released Oct. 29 because state courts agreed with double murderer Bobby Bowden that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as 80 years. The 1981 Fair Sentencing Act included a retroactive provision that essentially cut all those sentences in half, and good behavior and other credits have shortened the sentences to the point that they are now complete.
Porter committed his crime in 1976, when the law defined a life term as 80 years.
The retroactive sentencing provision cut his time in half. With good behavior cutting nearly seven additional years off his sentence, he is eligible to be released next week.
Porter said Tuesday that he has turned his life around. He also expressed regret over the rape.
"I am deeply, deeply, deeply sorry for that," he said.
Seven of the inmates set for release were once on death row. All but one of them have been convicted of murder or rape.
"The potential is there for a lot of danger," U.S. Attorney George Holding said.
Holding is among those looking for legal avenues to keep the prisoners in custody.
"We are reviewing all the files to see if there are any prosecutable federal offenses," he said.
Longtime defense attorney Joe Cheshire said that according to the law, the inmates have done their time.
"It is unbelievable," he said. "You can't go around ignoring the law and that is what they are trying to do."
Porter has taken self-improvement classes while in jail. He also volunteers at churches as part of a pre-release program.
He has to register as a sex offender upon release, but says he can be trusted not to commit another crime
"I feel like they can (trust me). I do not have urges to try anything like that," he said.
The state Correction Department estimates about 100 more prisoners could be released in the coming months.
The Department of Correction is attempting to notify victims of the crimes involved. Victims who have not been contacted are asked to call the DOC Office of Victim Services at 1-866-719-0108.