FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – A Kentucky judge temporarily blocked a new parole board policy that would give dozens of convicted murderers another chance to potentially reduce their life sentences.
The temporary restraining order issued this week by a circuit judge was requested by Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Jackie Steele, Commonwealth attorney for Knox and Laurel counties.
The court order prevents the Kentucky Parole Board from granting a new parole hearing to more than 40 inmates previously ordered by the board to serve life sentences for crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping, Cameron said. The new policy sparked outrage from prosecutors across the state.
“We are grateful that the court acted urgently to grant the temporary restraining order and prevent the Board of Parole from rehearing 45 convicted criminals who are responsible for some of the worst crimes in recent history,” Cameron said in a statement on Friday.
“We will continue to fight in court on behalf of Kentucky crime victims and prosecutors to ensure that the board’s leadership is permanently stopped,” added the attorney general.
The state Parole Board said Friday it would comply with the court order and that the parole eligibility hearings in question in the matter would not go ahead.
Until the rule was blocked, some prisoners previously ordered to serve life sentences were scheduled to receive another parole eligibility hearing next month, Cameron’s office said.
Among them were a man responsible for the murder and kidnapping of two high school students, a woman responsible for the murder of her 10-year-old stepson, a man who killed two teenagers on their first date, and a man responsible for kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. . a college student, the attorney general’s office said.
The restraining order was the first step requested by Cameron and Steele to challenge the rule. They filed a lawsuit last week in Laurel County Circuit Court calling for the policy to be invalidated, claiming it violates state law and the Kentucky constitution.
The lawsuit targets the rule limiting the parole board’s ability to order a prisoner to serve a life sentence at an initial parole eligibility hearing. Allowing new parole hearings would subject the families of the victims to reliving the crimes, Cameron and Steele said.
“When victims are finally told that those responsible for committing a crime against their loved one will serve their sentence, they feel like they can close a painful chapter and begin the healing process,” Steele said. “For a government agency to reopen everything, like the Parole Board did, is terrible.”
Cameron claims the parole board lacked the legal authority to issue the new directive this spring. Even if it had the authority, the board did not follow the administrative regulation process, which requires a review by state lawmakers and a public comment period, according to the lawsuit.
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