Friday, January 29, 2016

So The Letter Came.

As I was preparing to travel to my conference over the weekend, the letter came.  The New York Parole Board is once again going to assess if Linda's murderer is capable of being released back into society.  I am always troubled when the letter comes as many of you already know.  Not just because it brings back all the memories but it calls into question how the criminal justice system operates. While some might disagree, I am an articulate and educated man who has been somewhat successful. I can easily take time to write a letter or even come to parole board to give a victim impact statement. If the victim of a crime didn't have someone to speak for them does that make the inmate more likely to be seen as fine for society.  Two years ago I wrote this letter:

Dear Parole Board,

I am writing this letter as a victim impact statement to be considered at the upcoming parole hearing of Jamie Morton, Inmate number 88C0405. On August 31, 1987 Mr. Morton stole the future I was building with my fianc√©, Linda Akers, when he chose to murder her in a senseless and brutal act.   

Mr. Morton violently beat and stabbed Linda for no reason except to vent his anger at a world he felt was unfair.  But more then stealing Linda and my future, he took a light out of the world.  Linda’s work with young children, especially during her time at the Bishop Foery Foundation, was focused on reaching vulnerable and at-risk children.   She wanted to make a difference in the world, especially those who were often unseen or ignored by society as a whole.  She never got the chance to make her mark.  I never saw Mr. Morton show remorse for his crime, in fact at times I felt he was proud of it.

My first reaction is that Mr. Morton should never leave prison; his crime is not one that should allow him to ever enjoy the pleasures of the world that he has made darker by his actions.  But I am torn with what to write. I believe in justice over vengeance; I believe in rehabilitation over the idea of locking people away forever, even for murder.  If Mr. Morton has served his time honorably and without incidents of violence or dangerous behavior, and if he will add to the world’s good as opposed to evil, should he not be released?  But how can we know how he will react if released?

Because of Mr. Morton’s crime, I would not consider him eligible for parole unless there is substantial evidence that he has indeed changed for the better while incarcerated.  I believe the burden of proof rests on him, and that burden is significant. 

When weighing your decision, I hope you see that Mr. Morton took the life of a woman who was dedicating her life to young children in the hope of making the world a better place.   I also hope that you honor the values of the legal system that seeks to not simply be a punishment, but also seeks rehabilitation and reform.  I have moved from Syracuse, I have built my life and while I still have a big hole created in the past, I think I have found peace in the last 2 decades.  But I am haunted by the idea that another person will be put through the same pain I have been through because of Mr. Morton’s actions.  So I hope when you decide on Mr. Morton’s future you do so with Linda’s life lost in mind and the chance that others might be at risk.  I do not envy your position in making this difficult decision. 

Thank you for taking my words into consideration while you deliberate. 


                 George Kelley 

As you can see I included my discomfort with the value of these statements.  So I was surprised by the most recent letter.  In it the statement should reflect the ruling of a NYS Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sciortino in which the parole decision must focus "almost exclusively on the inmate's crime". I am not sure if this is a way of leveling the field and taking the victim completely out of the equation.  Parole should be "future-focused" as the ruling goes.  This has been my thought for a while but then I wonder if sentencing might be refocused as well.  How do we come up with the numbers that we use when we decide how long someone should be in prison?  Seriously, is there a formula? Three decades is a long time in prison and Morton is approaching this milestone.  But during those same years the world has been without a great woman who dedicated her life to children. So the later doesn't matter as much.  Perhaps that is a good thing.  So I will write again and ask them to consider the danger Morton will pose but also any hate he would bring to the world.  There is a no way to know the future.  This is my particular situation but I wonder how many may find freedom with this new ruling.  I hope that justice prevails and that the parole board makes good decisions.  It is suppose to be blind, I just hope it isn't simpleminded as well. 

No comments:

RIP Anthony Bourdain and We Must All Be More Aware

This morning I woke up with a little spring in my step.  It is Friday, Shabbat is almost here.  I can work outside this weekend for a bit a...