The tough-on-crime platform that led Gov. Parris N. Glendening to all but abolish parole for inmates serving life sentences will be challenged today in Maryland's highest court.
The case represents the toughest challenge to the no-parole policy, said David C. Wright, attorney for Prisoner's Rights Information Systems of Maryland Inc. If inmate Walter E. Lomax succeeds in the state's Court of Appeals, the ruling could affect the sentences of about 2,000 inmates serving life sentences.
The case stems from Glendening's 1995 statements that he would not grant parole to anyone serving a life sentence and that he had ordered the parole commission not to forward him any recommendations, except for very old or terminally ill inmates.
"It's the court's function to impose a life without parole sentence if that's appropriate. It's not the governor's function to turn all parolable life sentences into life without parole," Wright said.
The state argues that Glendening's statements are simply statements. The parole commission is forwarding recommendations to him, but ultimately he has the power to decide whether to grant parole to prisoners with life sentences, said Stuart M. Nathan, assistant attorney general for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
"The governor is simply exercising his discretion," Nathan said. "The parole commission continues to do its job and the governor continues to do his job."
Lomax was sentenced to life in prison in 1969 for murder. He was recommended for parole in 1989 and 1994, Wright said, but was turned down twice by previous governors. The last time he appeared before the parole board, in 1997, he was not recommended.
Pub Date: 11/10/98