Nephew of slain trooper cheers court ruling on life sentences
Posted August 30, 2010
Oxford, N.C. — The nephew of a state trooper who was killed in 1976 said Monday that the state Supreme Court didn't go far enough in ruling that his uncle's killer remain incarcerated.
Faye Brown is among dozens of inmates sentenced under a 1974 law that defined a life sentence as 80 years. Attorneys for the inmates have argued that the old law, combined with good behavior credits, means their clients' prison terms are complete.
Brown, 57, was convicted in Martin County of murder and sentenced to death after she and two acquaintances robbed a bank and one of the men shot Trooper Guy Thomas Davis Jr. of the state Highway Patrol. Her sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison.
In 5-2 decisions Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Brown and another inmate cannot use credits for good behavior to shorten their life sentences.
"I was really pleased with the ruling," said Scott Williamson, Davis' nephew.
Williamson said memories of his uncle and how he died remain vivid more than three decades later.
"It was my first real experience with death. It was such a traumatic thing. It is something that stuck with me my whole life," he said.
Although the Supreme Court blocked Brown's release, Williamson said, she still is getting off easy.
He noted that she has a full-time job as part of a Department of Correction work-release program and is let out of the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women one weekend a month to visit her family.
"I really don't see that she is really in prison. She not being punished," he said. "I can remember a time that, if you killed a law enforcement officer, you actually got punished for it."
Two of the five Supreme Court justices who ruled that Brown should remain in prison said the decision should be applied to all inmates given life sentences under the 1974 law.
Observers said they expect the issue will be appealed in federal court.