Local News

Third N.C. inmate presses court on 'life' sentences

Posted December 11, 2009

— A third North Carolina inmate is petitioning the courts to be set free from a "life" sentence defined as only 80 years long.

The case of convicted murderer Faye Brown went before a Wake County judge on Friday morning, with her attorneys arguing her sentence expired in February and that she has been "unlawfully detained" since then.

Faye Brown Third N.C. inmate presses court on 'life' sentences

Brown is among more than two dozen inmates – mostly convicted murderers and sex offenders – who were prepared for release in October after state courts ruled in favor of double-murderer Bobby Bowden. He contended that a 1970s law defined a life sentence as 80 years and sued for his release.

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

The potential releases sparked outrage among many, including Gov. Beverly Perdue, who has blocked the releases, arguing that prison officials improperly applied some of the credits.

The inmates' sentences have since been recalculated, with the earliest release date for unconditional release in 2054.

Two other inmates have gone to court on the matter – William Folston, in Shelby last week, and Alford Jones, in Goldsboro on Wednesday. Decisions have yet to be made in those cases.

"According to the law, the sentence is considered to be 80 years," Brown, 56, testified Friday.

She was convicted 34 years ago of murder and sentenced to death after she and two acquaintances robbed a bank and one of the men shot a state Highway Patrol trooper.

Her sentence was eventually commuted to a life sentence, and she has been on work release since 1989. Most recently, she has worked as a secretary for the past four years at a cosmetology school in Raleigh.

Brown, who is incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, testified that she met with the prison superintendent, Kenneth Royster, and that the two made a plan for her release.

"I didn't tell her absolutely that she was getting out," Royster testified. "I told her a target date of Oct. 29 had been set for possible release."

Attorneys for the state argued that the court should focus on legal arguments, not "atmospherics," such as press releases and public comments, including those from the governor.

Citing state court decisions, Perdue said in October that officials would be "forced" to release the inmates. While Perdue expressed outrage herself, her press release also triggered angst among victims and lawmakers who feared what might happen if the group of convicted murderers and rapists returned to society with no supervision.

But after consulting with legal counsel, Perdue later reversed herself and argued the inmates did not qualify for credits reducing the length of their sentences.

Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand recalled that chaos during a hearing Friday.

"All of a sudden, everybody says, 'No big deal.' Doesn't that look weird?" he said to the state's attorneys.

Rand said Friday he will expedite a decision on the case, as well as Jones' case, which he presided over Wednesday.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • jurydoc Dec 11, 2009

    DAG - NC has what is called the felony murder rule. That means that if a murder occurs during the commission of another felony, then anyone associated with the other felony can also be charged with capital murder. This woman was with others who had committed a bank robbery. Even though someone else pulled the trigger, all associated with the underlying felony can be charged capitally. This law is still on the books and it is still used. Prosecutors have discretion in charging, however, and if they don't feel that level of charge is appropriate, they do not charge that way.

  • HeBlessesMe Dec 11, 2009

    See, I read the comments on this story and it makes me wonder. Don't get me wrong, I pray for the victims of all families, however, do you not realize that convicted murders and sex offenders get released everyday and have served even lesser sentences than these inmates have served? By the way, these same convicts were given "life" sentences as well. Then I read about the unfortunate accident in which the student was killed recently. According to what I read and how your message can be interpreted, this boy should serve life too because MURDER IS MURDER. I understand that it was an accident, but he knew better than to drive 90 miles/hour and at 17, he should NOT be charged as a youth offender, he should be charged as an Adult. He knew right from wrong.

  • BikerDoc Dec 11, 2009

    rich son -
    Unless I slept through a decade or two, Democrats have run NC (the laws in question here are NC laws) since before I was born. There haven't been any Repugnican majorities in the GA in many years, and even a Repugnican Gov in NC can't veto bad bills. No, the Dems own this one in its entirety.

  • DAG Dec 11, 2009

    Why was she convicted of murder if an accomplice shot the officer? And if one can be convicted of murder for someone elses actions during a crime, why aren't more people charged like this? I'm missing something here...

  • wildcat Dec 11, 2009

    Murder is murder and she should served the time that was given to her. After that only then should she be released.

  • jlewis2262 Dec 11, 2009

    I mean she was already left off of a death sentence that should have been enough. Come on look at the crime she committed. My heart goes out to the victims families they will NEVER get there loved ones back

  • wildcat Dec 11, 2009

    She thought she was going to be home for Christmas. No so. She will be having her dinner in the prison dining room. But hey her family can still visit on certain days. Just let the prison officials know.

  • we_all_have_it_coming Dec 11, 2009

    "The law is the law, whether we like it or not. So, they made a mistake in making the law what it was. Now, years later, it is discovered to not be the political thing to do, but the law HAS to be followed, or our whole system is a failure. Eventually they WILL be released. ( I dont condone this, but we have rules to follow)

    The name says it all.

    There was no law that allows them to get out before 80 years (and there is not one now!).... they are playing some of you for fools. They are "mixing-n-matching" certain aspects that have arisen over the years to obtain a get-out-of-jail free card.

    You actually think there is a law on the books that states:
    OK...you were sentenced to DEATH...but we will make that 80 years... and now we will cut that in half.... and then, let's see.... you were pretty good in jail so lets take away another handful of years... and OH BOY.... you get to go home!

    Really believe that?

  • whatusay Dec 11, 2009

    If she committed the crime 34 years ago and the law says she can get out in 40 instead of 80, that still leaves 6 years. She hasn't served 1/2 of her term yet. This new liberal law says up to 1/2 time credit (I thought).

  • wildcat Dec 11, 2009

    All prisoners should remain in prison and served their time that was put forth to them in court. Cutting their time, telling us what? Allow them to serve their time for what was given to them and when they do that, only then should they be released.