So the letter came today. Every two years it comes at the end of January or beginning of February. It tells me that Linda's murderer will once again have a chance to be freed from prison. It once again asks me to draft a statement for the board. It once again brings up the debate between wanting that man to die in prison and my values of living in a culture where rehabilitation and second chances are important. It seems that in the long run I know nothing changes the past, I like my present, and when I look back over the 30 years since Linda's murder I have struggled, hurt people, and acted the fool in part from carrying the anger and pain of that afternoon in the summer of '87, However with each year I have healed. Maybe I can even drive down James Street in Syracuse next time I am there. But I still am uncertain about the fact that Jamie Morton be freed. So here is what I plan to send the parole board. Not that different from previous letters but maybe with a little more edge. Call me out if you feel you need to, frankly I am not sure if I am totally comfortable with my own thoughts:
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 he murdered Linda Akers, my fiancé, in my apartment in Syracuse. It seems that I have done this every 2 years for a while now so I wonder if this is really a necessary action, however I feel I give voice to Linda and that is important for me.
Mr. Morton violently beat and stabbed Linda for no reason except to vent his anger at a world he felt was unfair. But more than 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 for those who were often unseen or ignored by society as a whole. She never got the chance to make her mark.
I have never felt that someone who could so senselessly take a life should be released and enjoy the freedom he stole from Linda and for many years myself. Now, more than 30 years after her death, I think I have found a way to heal almost fully. However, when I am brought back to that time period either by a visit with my college friends or a trip through Central New York, I once again feel the wound as if it were fresh. How can someone who caused such ripples of pain be able to fully make up for it even in 3 decades?
Yet I am also someone who believes in both justice and rehabilitation. 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? Each time I have received your letter I find myself in debate with myself about what I would like to see (Morton die in prison) from an emotional level and the values I fought for and that Linda shared that justice and rehabilitation should be part of our society. Giving people a second chance is important to me. I just can’t help but think of his behavior at trial, his lack of real remorse and of course the simple fact that his reaction to being angry was to kill the innocent person nearest him.
You have more information than I do. You know his record in prison. You know if he has found a way to purge the anger that fed him. You may even know if he still has murder in his heart. But if you can’t be sure that the man you sent to prison is not coming out with all the same problems then how can you feel comfortable allowing him back into society?
I know that you are supposed to take a “future focused” approach to deciding parole. But I don’t think you should forget the crime itself and not just the action of plunging a knife into another human, but what ending Linda’s life meant to the world. I hope you see that Mr. Morton took the life of a woman who was dedicating that life to young children, many vulnerable at-risk children in your community. I hope that you will see the crime was against a single person but has caused a great deal more pain for many, many others.
So in the end, once again, you have to decide whether Morton should be free, living the community where Linda was no longer allowed to bring her light. Your job is difficult, I know I don’t have a vote, but again, if you don’t feel 100% confident he will add to the community don’t set him free, I wouldn’t.
Thank you for taking my words into consideration while you deliberate.