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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Maryland inmates worthy of mercy

Two Maryland inmates worthy of mercy
By Editorial Board, Published: March 14

MARK FARLEY GRANT was 14 years old in 1984 when he was charged with the shooting
death of another teenager during an attempted robbery in Maryland. He was tried
and convicted, and was sentenced to life behind bars. A key witness in the case
has since recanted his testimony and identified Mr. Grant’s co-defendant as the
shooter.

It is welcome news that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is considering commuting Mr.
Grant’s sentence. He is also weighing early release for Tamara Settles, who was
involved in a planned robbery that turned fatal when her boyfriend shot and
killed the man. The boyfriend pleaded guilty and served nine years. Ms. Settles
has been imprisoned for nearly three decades.

Sentences of life without parole are often touted as an alternative to capital
punishment because they provide certainty to victims and communities; these
sentences should not be tinkered with lightly. But we commend Mr. O’Malley, who
has yet to grant a clemency request during his six years in office, for finding
the courage to revisit cases in which this open-ended sentence may conflict with
the ideal of fairness.

In Maryland, only the governor may commute the sentence of an inmate facing life
behind bars for murder. The Parole Commission, which has the authority to parole
inmates convicted of lesser crimes or facing lesser sentences, has forwarded to
Mr. O’Malley 61 cases in which it has recommended commutation for individuals
sentenced to life. Mr. O’Malley has rejected 57 of these. Two landed on the
governor’s desk in February and are in the early stages of evaluation.

In determining whether to grant clemency, Mr. O’Malley must, among other things,
take into account the views of law enforcement officials, the inmate’s role in
the crime, the inmate’s age at the time of the crime, the length of time served
and the likelihood that the inmate will transgress again.

Public safety must always be a priority. But Mr. Grant and Ms. Settles appear
worthy candidates for mercy. Mr. Grant, who approaches his third decade behind
bars, was a child at the time of his offense, and serious questions exist about
the extent of his culpability. The prosecutor who took his case to trial
supports clemency, and the current state’s attorney does not object.

Ms. Settles, now 53, has successfully completed an extended drug rehabilitation
program, earned an associate’s degree and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree,
according to The Post’s Aaron C. Davis.

Even if granted clemency, neither Ms. Settles nor Mr. Grant would be released
until the state has crafted a transition plan with programs to help them
reintegrate into society. Both would be subject to supervision.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/two-md-inmates-worthy-of-mercy/2012/03/12\
/gIQADEgXCS_story.html?wprss=rss_opinions

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