Similar language led the Maryland Court of Appeals to issue the ruling in another case that sparked Young's request.

Several defendants have struck agreements with prosecutors resulting in their release, including most recently former Black Panther leader Marshall "Eddie" Conway.

Michael Millemann, a University of Maryland law school professor, said prosecutors have opposed the release of least 11 convicts. They lost seven of those cases, and have worked out agreements leading to the convicts' release or are pending trial.

"Anyone who was tried before 1980 is entitled to a new trial," Millemann said. "In deciding which cases to resolve by agreement resulting in releases, the Baltimore state's attorney's office has decided on a case-by-case basis, which is a model of what prosecutors should do."

Cardin, the former prosecutor, said he agrees with the ruling spurring the new trials, called the "Unger ruling" after the convict whose case led to the decision. Cardin is fighting for the release of a Harford County man, Peter Waine, under the Unger decision, and said he has been waiting 18 months for an appellate court ruling.

Though the state has adopted a "life means life" approach in recent decades, Cardin said when he was a prosecutor there was an expectation that offenders sentenced to life would eventually be released. Though he said he did not know the specifics of Young's time behind bars, he believes many inmates are denied parole simply because of the crime they committed and without consideration for the progress they might have made.

David R. Blumberg, the chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission, said he has never personally overseen a parole request from Young. But Blumberg grew up in Mount Washington and was 13 years old at the time of the crime, and has since reviewed the file.

"I remember it very well as a part of my childhood, just what a senseless loss of life it was," Blumberg said. "You read many cases, and some stay with you. And this stayed with me."

The version of this article that appeared in Friday's editions misspelled the last name of Esther Lebowitz. The Sun regrets the error

jfenton@baltsun.com