First Posted: 10/24/2009
In 1975 two men entered a convenience store in Fayetteville and killed a clerk working there. They were dragging the clerk into the back of the story when a woman walked in, and the two proceeded to shoot her in the chest, then finish her off with a bullet in her head.
Bobby Bowden was one of those men, and now he is preparing for release from the North Carolina prison sentence despite receiving a life term for his crimes.
Earlier this month the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in Bowdens favor in a case in which his attorney argued that under state law in effect at that time, a life sentence was defined as 80 years. With early release credits prisoners could earn at the time he was sentenced, Bowden argued he had served his time and should be released.
The court ruled in his favor and then the Department of Correction did a startling thing it decided that since there were other inmates sentenced under those old guidelines who might now be eligible for release, 27 in all, all 27 should be released.
Thankfully Gov. Bev Perdue had the good sense to step in and halt the release of all but Bowden, arguing, according to the Associated Press (AP), that the Department does not have the authority to do this. In essence, the courts are going to have to decide the fates of these 27 other men, maybe on a case-by-case basis, perhaps on a class action basis.
Many have expressed outrage at the courts ruling, including local law enforcement agencies. That is understandable, since nearly all of the inmates in question were convicted of violent crimes rape, murder, or both and all of them have been cited for at least two rules infractions while in prison. Again according to the AP, the group has collectively been guilty of more than 250 prison infractions. These are not doddering old men or reformed inmates.
But the court made its ruling based upon the laws in effect at the time of the sentencing, which is probably the correct course of action. If there is outrage in the case, it should be directed at two sources.
First, the General Assembly which drafted those laws more than three decades ago that allowed for dangerous, violent criminals sentenced to life imprisonment to be freed.
And second, to the Department of Correction, which was prepared to dump nearly 30 of these inmates back on the streets based on a court case involving a single person.
We applaud Gov. Perdue for stepping in decisively to stop this action, and we hope she takes steps to ensure the leadership of the Department isnt so reckless in the future.