WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: Proposed bill would let some convicted killers out sooner

A WAAY 31 I-Team investigation uncovered flaws in the Alabama parole system and showed how violent inmates were being paroled early. Now, there’s a proposed bill to let some convicted killers out sooner.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 6:35 PM
Updated: Apr 11, 2019 12:47 PM

A WAAY 31 I-Team investigation uncovered flaws in the Alabama parole system and showed how violent inmates were being paroled early. Now, there’s a proposed bill to let some convicted killers out sooner.

The bill is specific to juveniles convicted of capital murder, and it would make them eligible for parole after 25 years in prison. That’s five years earlier than current laws.

Victims' families said this bill is a step in the wrong direction.

"You don't look at a 14, 15, 16 or 17-year-old person to think that they are going to beat, stab or shoot individuals. These are the most heinous crimes, and they need to stay in prison," said a victim's family member, Mary Ann Rippey.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagrees. A juvenile cannot be given a mandatory life sentence that calls for life without parole. They have to have an option. Rippey’s brother was killed in 1999. After the Supreme Court ruling, she worked with lawmakers in Montgomery to make sure juveniles convicted of the most heinous murders spend as much time in prison as possible.

"We worked really hard and compromised at 30 years if they are re-sentenced to life," said Rippey.

Rippey is frustrated because a lawmaker from Birmingham introduced Senate Bill 111. It would take five years off the minimum sentence, making it 25.

"I just don't see why he wants to or any of them want to upturn everyone's life for five years," said Rippey.

On the phone Wednesday, Senator Cam Ward said it can take five years for an eligible inmate to actually get a parole hearing.

"Due to the process and nature of getting that parole hearing and getting the parole hearing, it was really about five years before they got a final answer on parole," said Ward.

Rippey said she doesn’t believe him.

"Time and time again, someone is released or they are brought up for parole before they are supposed to be," she said.

Rippey said she expects notice within 24 hours of a vote on Senate Bill 111. She plans on being in Montgomery to share her concerns.

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