Governor's parole plan overturned 1995 executive order blocked rapists, killers serving life sentences

No decision yet on appeal

City judge rules that Glendening lacked authority for action

September 17, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore circuit judge overturned yesterday a 2-year-old executive order by Gov. Parris N. Glendening that blocked inmates serving life sentences for rape and murder from seeking parole.

Judge Richard T. Rombro said that Glendening did not have the authority to issue the order he gave to the state's Parole Commission in September 1995, in which he told commissioners "not to even recommend -- to not even send to my desk -- a request for parole for murderers and rapists."

Glendening did make two exceptions in his order -- one for "very old age" or terminal illness.

Rombro's decision was a response to an appeal made by 14 inmates at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

"I'm ecstatic," said Nancy Moran, an independent advocate for Maryland's inmates who strongly criticized the governor for the order.

"It was stupid; it was short-sighted," she said of the order.

Moran blamed Glendening's decision for a melee at the Maryland House of Correction Annex in May, during which inmates attacked four officers. She said some inmates were frustrated and angry about their inability to seek parole.

"When the people figured they could never get out without parole, they were in a state of despair, and that's why they behaved the way they did," she said.

Judi Scioli, the governor's press secretary, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal Rombro's ruling. She said Glendening will remain tough on violent offenders.

"I would like to emphasize that the governor is opposed, as a matter of policy, to lifers serving less than their full sentence," Scioli said. "However, he has always acknowledged that certain exceptions may exist that will warrant parole."

Since his order in 1995, Glendening has paroled only one inmate serving a life sentence.

That inmate is Everette Powell, who was in prison on a murder conviction. Glendening released him last month on a medical parole.

Powell was suffering a severe case of diabetes, hypertension, liver problems and other ailments.

"He was very ill," Scioli said.

In his opinion yesterday, Rombro said that the Parole Commission and its duties were created by General Assembly and that no executive order can change what was instituted by the legislature.

Moreover, the governor's order denied the inmates their rights to appeal their sentences to the commission, which was designed to hear such requests, Rombro said.

"In the exercise of discretion, the governor may deny parole to those recommended by the commission, but the discretion must be exercised," the judge said.

In his decision, Rombro ordered:

* The Parole Commission to resume parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences for murder and rape.

* The Parole Commission to submit recommendations to the governor as required by state law.

* The governor to determine whether to approve the recommendations.

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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