Michigan Killer Defends Early Release; Prosecutor Appeals


A killer whose early release drew the wrath of Michigan prosecutor Jessica Cooper says he doesn’t deserve to be the poster boy for controversy over the state’s efforts to downsize its prison system. “The prosecutor, court papers make me appear some kind of mad-dog public enemy,” Craig LeRoy Atkins, 51, told the Detroit News. “Did I make mistakes with my life? Yes. Did I pay for them? Yes, with 21 years of my life. But all the bad things they said I did have been exaggerated, and don’t take into account all my good behavior. I’m proud of what I did in prison. I used prison like a university and became a paralegal.”

Atkins was released Oct. 22 after serving 21 years of a 25- to 80-year prison sentence for the 1987 slaying of a reputed hitman. Cooper wants the parole revoked based on the violent nature of his crime and his conduct behind bars, including discussing his “trophy kill” with inmates. Atkins is one of at least 16 prisoners whom Cooper wants to keep behind bars as she and other prosecutors continue to fight for earlier information about potential parolees being released under a state budget-cutting initiative. “You’ve got to work your way into prison and should have to work your way out,” she said. “No automatic paroles. Certainly not for violent offenders. They need to prove they’re ready to go back in society.”

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