In courthouses across North Carolina, inmates have made simple, quiet pleas for release, saying they’ve satisfied the state’s punishment of life in prison, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. There was no fussing, no political grandstanding. In a few cases, there wasn’t even a debate. “For us, it’s an open-and-shut issue based on the law. No politics here,” said Fred Flowers, an attorney in Shelby, N.C. He won a local judge’s order this year for the release of an inmate sentenced to life for a murder and burglary committed in the 1970s. The inmate has not yet been released.
State courts have ruled that legislators limited life sentences imposed on crimes between 1974 and 1978 to 80 years. Inmates argue that credits awarded for good behavior, work release, and education have cut some of their sentences to as little as 30 or 35 years. These cases are proceeding apart from those of 27 inmates who were to be set free yesterday. Officials have blocked their release until courts decide whether those credits were legitimately awarded by prison officials. The debate has showcased tough-talking by Gov. Beverly Perdue and emotional pleas by the families of victims whose killers and rapists were to be freed.