Local News

N.C. Supreme Court to hear 'life' sentences case

Posted January 28, 2010 5:29 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2010 5:36 p.m. EST

— North Carolina's highest court will hear arguments next month about two convicted murderers who argue that the life sentences they received in the 1970s are now complete, officials said Thursday.

Shaula Brannan, assistant clerk at the state Supreme Court, said the court has scheduled arguments in the cases of Alford Jones and Faye Brown for Feb. 16. A judge ruled in December that both Jones and Brown should be immediately set free, although state lawyers have managed to keep them behind bars by appealing the cases.

Dozens of convicts who were sentenced to life between 1974 and 1978 received terms defined as no more than 80 years long. Jones and Brown contend sentence-reduction credits mean they've completed their punishment. State attorneys claim the credits they've received behind bars should not be used to reduce their prison terms.

More than two dozen inmates could immediately qualify for release if the state is forced to apply credits earned behind bars to reduce the length of sentences. Many more could be released in the months and years to come.

While the state attorney general's office has suffered a string of court losses in trying to keep the inmates in custody, they did win favor with one judge. Superior Court Judge Gentry Caudill determined last month that the Department of Correction secretary has discretion in how to award good behavior credits, and said the secretary has decided not to apply those discounts to release the "life" prisoners early.

Brown is currently being held at Raleigh Correctional Center for Women. She was sentenced for her role in the shooting death of a state trooper during a bank robbery in 1975.

Jones is currently at New Hanover Correctional Center in Wilmington. He was convicted in the January 1975 shooting of William B. Turner Sr.