US Marijuana Party

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Parole hearings plagued by delays

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Carla Crowder
Birmingham News

Some of the parole-eligible habitual offenders have been in prison more than 20 years and continue to face delays in getting parole hearings.

Among them is Samuel Lee Thompson. With four burglaries and a car break-in in his past, he robbed an Ensley chicken restaurant of $103 in 1983 and was sent to prison for the rest of his life.

A judge in April reduced Thompson's sentence to life. Normally, prisoners with life sentences are eligible for parole-consideration hearings after serving 10 years, less than half of what he's already done.

Thompson's hearing was set for this month. But it will be delayed because of Alabama's victim notification law, which requires the parole board to locate and notify everyone named on the indictment, a task that has put the board about a year behind on cases with victims.

"Hopefully it won't be a year," said Cynthia Dillard, assistant executive director of the parole board. But the older a case, "the longer it takes for them to get a hearing."

Douglas Gray, 51, a Vietnam veteran whose last strike was the purchase of $900 worth of marijuana in 1989, has been eligible for parole since August, when he was resentenced. While he's awaiting a hearing, he's coping with a broken hip. "I've been in a wheelchair for over a year now," he said in a letter from the St. Clair honor dorm.

As is often the case with older convictions, Gray's file is archived in the district attorney's office that prosecuted him, Dillard said. The parole board requested the file from Morgan County Nov. 8, and expects it any day now, she said.

Carla Crowder --


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