WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: AG's Office: Murder suspect improperly released

According to the Attorney General's Communication Director Mike Lewis, Spencer was improperly categorized as a "non-victim" offender.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 5:50 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 2:21 PM

The Alabama Attorney General's Office says they were notified about Jimmy Spencer's 2017 parole hearing but the Franklin County District Attorney says he was not.

The Attorney General's Office sent us this following statement about Jimmy Spencer the man who was paroled and is now charged with killing three people in Guntersville.

"The Attorney General's Office was notified. However, Mr. Spencer was improperly categorized as a "non-victim" offender. As a result, our Office of Victim Assistance was not alerted to his violent past. This case also raises concerns with the Board's risk assessment procedures and whether the implementation of this process is failing the public. The Attorney General grieves the loss of life and is working with prosecutors and law enforcement from around the state on a solution to the issues raised in this case.

Alabama law is very clear, anytime a person comes up for parole the Attorney General's office and the District Attorney of the county of conviction must be notified. The WAAY31 I-team has uncovered the current law exempted the parole board from notifying Jimmy Spencer's original victim in Franklin County about his 2017 parole hearing.

The original victim was notified in 2008 and 2013, but law enforcement officials are always supposed to be notified.

Franklin County District Attorney, Joey Rushing, told WAAY31 he's gone through many documents and cannot find where the parole board attempted to notify him about Jimmy Spencer's 2017 parole hearing.

Under the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2015 it created an electronic notification system. If you are a victim you can go in and specifically follow a persons case and get parole hearings dates but you must sign up for that. For district attorney's it's a bit different because they have so many cases to be notified about.

"I absolutely do not think there was ever a notice sent on this case or else we would have had it," said Rushing. "I am not making excuses, obviously if there was a notice sent I would have it in a file, or the victim or the attorney general someone would have gotten a notice and we would have known Spencer was up again."

With the new electronic system it's all automatic. A computer compiles the names and sends out the notice letters to District Attorney's like Rushing. He even showed us some recent parole notification letters he's received but he says in other cases he doesn't get the notices, which is illegal under Alabama Code 15-22-23.

"I had one the other day where I did not receive a notice on. The victims did get a notice they came in and said, 'hey we haven't heard from you' and I said what about? and they said so and so is up for parole and I said I sure didn't know that," said Rushing.

Rushing said he immediately wrote a letter to the parole board in that specific case asking them to deny parole for an inmate but he says once again there is a flaw.

"There's another case that obviously slipped through the system. It's a bad situation when you just get these electronic submission forms sent in the mail and sometimes they get here sometimes they don't," said Rushing.

To prove the parole board did not properly send out notifications and to essentially hold them accountable is hard to prove.

"The thing about it, with the computer and everything being transmissions and computer generated letters there is no way to go back and check that somebody did put that person in a computer and send that out," said Rushing. "Just from talking with all the individuals who normally get a notice on that list and nobody got a notice. That let's me know that Mr. Spencer was brought up for parole without any parties being notified."

It's also interesting to point out that under Alabama Code 15-22-23 it says the Parole Board cannot grant parole to anyone without proper notification being sent out to District Attorney's and the Attorney Generals Office.

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