State News

Attorneys go to court over N.C. 'life' sentences

Posted December 3, 2009

— Attorneys were set to argue in a state court why they think a man given a life sentence more than three decades ago should not qualify for good behavior credits that could set him free early.

The case of Wilbur William Folston was scheduled for a hearing Thursday in Shelby.

Folston, convicted in 1976 of first-degree murder, is one of 29 inmates that North Carolina officials prepared for release this fall after state courts agreed that their "life" sentences were only 80 years because of a quirky law that was in place in the 1970s.

Gov. Bev Perdue later blocked the release of the inmates and argued that they should never have received good behavior credits that cut sentences in half. Defense attorneys contend that the state is trying to change the rules.

22 Comments

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  • Vietnam Vet Dec 4, 4:20 p.m.

    I've said it before and I'm going to say it again. Life sentence is just that...LIFE! You get out of prison when you die. It isn't rocket science people!

  • Dick Dec 3, 6:51 p.m.

    Who did Folston murder, and for what reason? If released, he can come into my "neighborhood". I can take it from there.

  • oldschooltarheel Dec 3, 6:02 p.m.

    bbfan - no fan of Huckabee here but I do think your statement about the shooter in WA state is grossly incorrect. Huckabee, as Gov. of Arkansas, commuted a sentence given to a 16 yo for UNarmed robbery of 100+ years to 46 years. This was AFTER the convict served 11 years in state prison. Huckabee had no role in his release (only the parole board can do that in Arkansas). FTR - at that time the convict did not demonstrate the increasingly erractic & violent behavior that he was clearly showing in the months before the murder of those 4 LEOs. In fact, he had assaulted an LEO & was charged with that assault & sexual assault of a 12 yo in the months before the LEOs murder. Still, he was given a low bail without any psychiatric evaluation - Jesus? that u? Cut loose to do what he did. If you want to play "pin the blame" I suggest the following: 1. get your facts correct before playing; 2. evaluate the situation clearly. Might be your 16 yo getting a way out of proportion sentence next time.

  • ngsoldier13p Dec 3, 4:22 p.m.

    To soldier and public safety

    Our legislature didn't pass an "life means 80 yr" law. It's based on case law, which was made by a judge. Case law can be overturned, it happens often. Sometimes it helps the criminals (Arizona vs Miranda, Arizona vs Gant) and sometimes it helps LEOs (Graham vs Connor). So it seems like the criminal justice system is working to solve a problem that they created a long time ago, when people weren't living as long bc of the lack of medical technology that we now have today, and are required by...wait for it...CASE LAW to give to inmates. These guys were convicted of a crime, sentenced to life, and now the State is trying to make sure they get it. Kudos to the State...just my $0.02...and PS, I am a soldier currently serving in Iraq and also a LEO for a good sized city in NC...

  • artist Dec 3, 4:15 p.m.

    "Ok, when they were sentenced they got life, and that was 80 years at the time, but there were no good behavior credits. Now, life is forever, but there's good behavior credits. So, these inmates want to chose the definition of "life" from 1975 and the credit for good behavior from 1990. They should either get one set of rules or the other, not pick and choose."

    Excellent point.

    And yes - another reason to support the death penalty. The longer these murderers live, the more lawyers pick up their cases for headlines. People only seem to remember the last man standing... not the victims.

  • dohicky Dec 3, 3:39 p.m.

    If the guy did not have good behaviour then he should not get credit. Isn't this what the court is going to decide. Seems I rememberf reading where his record was not good but can't say without looking back at the reports. Maybe he did or maybe he didn't. I think they should let him out an he should go live with the parole board members. THey could take turns having him in their homes.

  • Tax Man Dec 3, 3:38 p.m.

    So this guy got LIFE, then later it was determined that LIFE was really 80 years - but if you add 80 years to his date of conviction that still would be 2063 before he was eligible for release. Don't they teach math in the DOC or the Courts? He still has 54 years to go before he should get out even under the less than Life rules.

  • Iamcornholio Dec 3, 2:48 p.m.

    Cornholio "These criminals did not care about the law whenever they commited their crime, they broke the law, turn-a-bout is fair play with them, so let's see how they like it. Keep them in."

    Sorry, the state has to follow their laws, that's what makes them different from the criminals.

    There is really no difference between the state and the criminals.

  • Milkman Dec 3, 2:44 p.m.

    Ok, when they were sentenced they got life, and that was 80 years at the time, but there were no good behavior credits. Now, life is forever, but there's good behavior credits. So, these inmates want to chose the definition of "life" from 1975 and the credit for good behavior from 1990. They should either get one set of rules or the other, not pick and choose.

  • bill0 Dec 3, 2:39 p.m.

    MillerB - maybe you can volunteer to serve time in prison even though the law says you should be free.

    The law is the law. If you break the law, you should face the penalty. Once you serve the sentence you were given under that law, then that should be it. If a citizen doesn't think a law is just or the punishment is appropriate, they should run for office or vote for someone who shares their opinion.

    In this case, that is what happened. Most of the people who made this law are no longer in office. It has been changed so that Life really does mean Life and not just 80 years. However, nobody can go back in time and change the sentences for these men. The governor had no right to hold them in prison even 1 day longer than their term.

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