Convict claims officials plotted against parole

August 03, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien and Dana Hedgpeth | Dennis O'Brien and Dana Hedgpeth,Sun Staff Writers

Terrence G. Johnson, convicted of killing a Prince George's County police officer in 1979, says state prison officials denied him parole in 1991 because they were overly concerned about the negative publicity that might accompany his release.

Lawyers for the state Parole Commission say no one ever promised Johnson that he would be paroled before his mandatory release date, July 6, 1997.

Now, a hearing before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. could end tomorrow with a decision to release Johnson.

Johnson, 31, was 15 when he was charged with the murder of two police officers. He was convicted of the manslaughter of one officer and found not guilty of killing the other by reason of temporary insanity.

At yesterday's hearing, he asked Judge Duckett that he be released because of his prison record and because state prison officials had illegally conspired to deny him parole four times between 1987 and 1991.

"The parole commission has stacked the deck against Mr. Johnson," said Seth Greenstein, one of three Washington lawyers arguing for Johnson's release from the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup.

Lawyers for the Division of Correction argued that the Parole Commission acted within its authority each time it denied the former Bladensburg resident's parole request.

"One doesn't have a right to parole," said George A. Eichhorn III, an assistant attorney general. "How they make that call is their discretion."

Yesterday, Johnson's lawyers argued that political concerns by Division of Correction commissioners ensured their client was singled out and unfairly treated.

Mr. Greenstein said the parole commission routinely based its denials on Johnson's failure to obtain work release. He said prison counselors recommended Johnson for work release, but that top-level prison officials refused.

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