The case of a Pennsylvania parolee charged this week with an attempted murder and rape illustrates how parole standards have changed over the years. The Philadelphia Inquirer says that parole officials in Missouri shortened two life sentences being served by Raymond E. Webb to 17 years in 1988.
It wouldn’t happen now. “Back in the early 1970s, murder in the first degree was a parolable offense,” said Tim Kniest of the Missouri Department of Corrections. “Now if you get convicted of first-degree murder, you only get two possibilities: life without parole, or death.”
Webb robbed and murdered a Missouri couple in 1971. At the time, murderers came up for parole after serving 15 years. Webb, now 59, was released to serve a six-year term for a crime in Pennsylvania, where he was released in 1994.
When the Inquirer asked why a double murderer with a lengthy criminal history was paroled, Lauren Taylor of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, said, “The board makes a decision that a person will succeed on parole. It’s not an exact science.” Webb was on “medium” supervision, the third lowest of four levels.
In the latest charges, Webb is accused of wrapping a leather belt around the neck of a 26-year-old woman whom he had met in a bar, taking off her pants, and threatening to kill her as he tried to rape her.