Local News

Appeals court removes roadblock to 'life' inmates' release

Posted December 17, 2009

— The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered that a temporary stay blocking the release of two convicted killers be lifted at 5 p.m. Friday.

That means attorneys for the state has until then to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court to keep Alford Jones and Faye Brown – two of several dozen inmates serving life sentences under a 1970s law – in prison.

Faye Brown Court lifts stay on inmates' release

Both inmates were sentenced under the 1974 law that defined a life sentence as 80 years. Attorneys for both argued last week that the old law, combined with good-behavior credits, mean their clients' prison terms are complete.

The appellate court gave no explanation for its decision.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, said attorneys were preparing to file petitions with the state's high. A spokeswoman for Gov. Beverly Perdue, who has adamantly opposed the release of any of the life inmates, said the state has filed petitions with the Supreme Court.

"Gov. Perdue will continue to fight the inmates' release. She still believes any release needs to be part of a system that reviews records before inmates are released," spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand ruled that the Department of Correction wrongly interpreted its regulation on the sentence-reduction credits but could have limited how those credits could be used.

"It did not," he wrote in his ruling.

Correction officials have said that state law prohibits felons serving life prison sentences from receiving good behavior credits for purposes of unconditional release from prison. The credits were awarded only for purposes of earning a more favorable custody grade, for becoming eligible for parole or for a commutation of a sentence by the governor.

A few hours before Rand's 5 p.m. deadline Monday, the Attorney General's Office persuaded the appeals court to keep Jones and Brown in prison until judges there could hear arguments.

"This order will for the first time ever in the history of North Carolina require our Secretary of Correction to unconditionally release an inmate serving a life sentence," Special Deputy Attorney General Tiare B. Smiley wrote in the motion for the temporary stay.

Rand's decision was a blow to Perdue's attempt to keep the inmates in prison. State officials say they are concerned because they will be released unconditionally without any kind of supervision.

"I'm furious," the governor told reporters Monday while visiting Camp Lejeune, vowing again to try to stop the release. "I have been really angry about this whole process."

Thomas Bennett, executive director of the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network, told The Associated Press that the inmates should not be released because of a "loophole" in the law. But he acknowledged the state may have a losing legal battle.

"For the sake of the victims, I hope that this (Supreme Court) petition succeeds," he said. "There's a lot of hurt and anger and bitterness out there."

47 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • Buddy1 Dec 18, 2:25 p.m.

    English teachers must weep any time they read comments on WRAL.

  • HeBlessesMe Dec 18, 1:28 p.m.

    It's funny reading about all these people that are so adamant about keeping these inmates in prison, but no one seems to care that the woman who killed the 6 year old after running past the stopped school bus is in prison. Wrong is wrong, so why is she free? Murder is murder and she knew better and just blantanly disregarded the law of stopping for school busses and children. She killed a child and served NO time. This little girl was 6 years old!!!!!!! If she can be set free with a slap on the wrist, a person who is being kept in prison and by law should be released, should go home.

  • pwilliamson53 Dec 18, 11:13 a.m.

    These two had a choice when they made it,which is why they are in prison now. The people that were killed, didn't get the chance to say I want to live!! This release is wrong, life is life. They took the life of their victims, were spared the death penalty and giving a life sentence. Well I don't know who's life they were talking about but "life" is in my opinion until you die in prison. This is the first thing Perdue has done that I stand by her. If only she would get mad and do more for our state as she has to fight the release.

  • Tackman792000 Dec 18, 10:54 a.m.

    It's ironic how our laws work! The pastor in Sanford who killed his wife got out after only serving 5 years. These two are just like any other inmates. If their sentence is up, release them. If they were sentenced under that 1974 law, we have to abide by the law. As unpopular as it may be what choices do we have? That's why we have laws and if the State of NC is not going to abide by it's own law, I certainly hope they don't expect me to abide by them either!

  • tarheelalum Dec 18, 10:21 a.m.

    Disregard the law! Who needs law! So what it is illegal to keep these inmates detained! The law is irrelevant if someone feels it's wrong! If I disagree with a law, of course I don't have to abide by it! Right? You people are unbelievable

  • sylviatyson Dec 18, 10:05 a.m.

    Why not let everybody that have commited a crime such as murder, rape stay in prison. Don't let nobody out. Because if you don't let these people out because some feel they should be kept in prison, well let all stay. Wrong is Wrong. There will be so many prison around, they're probably be building some in your neighborhood. Some people can be rehabilitated and some can't. A chance we take. Can't change the law to fit our feelings. Pray for these people that they have change. People let God be the judge. Let us follow the law, because if we start to change or adjust the law because we feel it don't fit the crime, well it may affect you or some of your family members one day. Think about it.

  • timothycapwell Dec 18, 9:55 a.m.

    I don't see what so hard to understand here. The (really flawed) law that was on the books when these people were convicted has been carried out. You can't go back and retro-activate their sentences. It's absurd to think so.

    I bet "Bev" Perdue has gone from "furious" to, oh, I dunno, "really furious"?? Although her grandstanding is baseless since she signed 2 bills passed by her democrat-controlled legislature that reduces sentences for convicted felons. She's a hack, and a bad one to boot!

  • whatsupwiththat Dec 18, 9:53 a.m.

    and how come I don't get credit for good behavior???

  • whatsupwiththat Dec 18, 9:50 a.m.

    I know several people who have served far less time for murder....does that make it right? No. But, like I tell me kids, the "fair" comes once a year, and it ain't today. They should be released...to the custody of their victims' family.

  • HeBlessesMe Dec 18, 9:02 a.m.

    It's interesting that everyone wants these inmates kept in prison due to the crimes they committed over 40 years ago. Now, do you all realize that there are many murders that were sentenced to life sentences already released and walking the same streets you walk everyday? How do I know? I know people who were incarcerated for petty crimes that have done time with murders. Under the current law, they were given LIFE sentences and had to serve a mandatory 10 or 25 year sentence. Once completed, they were released because they served their term under the LAW!!!!!!! No need to ask for facts, those who have been incarcerated for the petty crimes, pointed out people who have murdered and then I was able to pull their public record. And guess what? They have don't bother me because I don't bother them. Keep in mind, you never truly know who is in your neighborhood, on your job, or walking the streets with you.

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