Court asked to block killer's parole

April 11, 1993|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Maryland officials are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to act swiftly to block the release from prison of a former Army sergeant sentenced to life for slaying a woman after breaking into her Landover apartment 17 years ago.

Describing inmate Clarence J. Hancock as "an extremely dangerous individual," lawyers for Maryland urged Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to make sure that Hancock will remain behind bars while officials appeal a state court ruling ordering him paroled.

The parole order is due to take effect Tuesday, attorneys said.

The 4-3 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals last month "will result in the release [of Hancock] into the community," the at torneys said in legal documents filed after the Court of Appeals refused to delay its decision.

Legal Aid lawyers, who are expected to defend his right to parole when they file papers with the chief justice Monday, had told lower courts that Hancock, 40, is no longer dangerous and that, if paroled, he would not be free entirely. Instead, they said, he would go to a halfway house, still under state supervision, as a condition of parole.

Now being held in prison in Hagerstown, Hancock was convicted of murdering a Landover nurse, Nina Elaine Paris, 36, with a hammer after sexually assaulting her in her home on Feb. 29, 1976.

Prosecutors said he broke into the apartment with the aim of raping her. His wife was Ms. Paris' baby-sitter.

Prosecutors said he used the same hammer to bludgeon Ms. Paris' 11-year-old son, Randolph, who had come to his mother's aid. The boy suffered permanent brain damage.

Given a life prison term plus 35 years, Hancock spent years in Jessup at the Patuxent Institution, which treats criminals with mental disorders, until he was transferred to prison because doctors said he could no longer benefit from treatment.

He and Patuxent officials have been battling in court for three years over his parole. That fight began when Patuxent, obeying a Baltimore judge's order, granted him parole but simultaneously denied him release by finding that he had broken a condition of parole by refusing to cooperate in his treatment.

The Court of Appeals said an inmate may not be denied parole for violating a condition of parole the inmate didn't previously know existed.

Lower courts also were told Hancock has violated no prison rules or rules at Patuxent Institution over the past 17 years.

Patuxent officials want to forbid his parole because they say he ++ refused to cooperate with his therapist at the institution and was not making as much progress as they thought he should.

In 1987, Patuxent officials had said he should be paroled; Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed that. The governor's veto power over paroles has since been struck down, and Hancock won a parole order from a Baltimore judge -- an order upheld by the Court of Appeals last month.

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