DEATH by murder is no stranger to me. I have been dealing with its pain and sorrow for 16 years.
On Feb. 3, 1975, I became one of the 23,000 homicide victims that year with the murder of our first-born and only son, Stuart. The stress of murder in our family has been enormous; the worst part has been dealing with the criminal injustice system.
The murderer, an escaped convict, was caught. I traveled to Southern Maryland for three days to attend the trial. I accepted the judge's conviction and sentencing of 30 years, plus five years for the handgun violation. I knew five other charges were added for the escape from prison and several LoisHessarmed robberies -- for a total of 67 years. Not in my lifetime could convict No. 122632 ever be on the street again.
I was wrong.
For 16 years I have been monitoring the whereabouts of convict No. 122632. He was in the Maryland Penitentiary until May 1990, when, because he had earned "points," he was transferred to the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. Then in November 1990, I received a letter informing me of an administrative review to be heard in November 1990. Things were moving fast.
I had a meeting at the parole board and another meeting at the Maryland House of Correction. I was informed that convict No. 122632 had had his sentence reduced because of a 1989 ruling of the Maryland Court of Appeals that had nothing to do with No. 122632. A retroactive ruling, nevertheless, reduced his sentence from 67 years to 43 years, plus 340 days for escape.
November came and went. I made phone calls. I asked, "When is the administrative hearing taking place?" The answer: "Not this month."
On Jan. 26, I got a letter from the parole board: " . . . because Mr. 122632's sentence structure was recently altered in response to a court decision, Mr. 122632 is now eligible for his first face-to-face parole hearing in March 1991."
What happened to the administrative review? If you ask me, escape convict No. 122632 is moving through the system very quickly, all because of earned points and a retroactive ruling.
I am tired of violence. I am tired of misinformation. I am tired of excuses. I am tired of earned points. I am tired of retroactive rulings. Where is truth in sentencing? I want the criminal injustice system to know I am monitoring its actions. The recidivism rate for violent offenders is very high.
Courage is going ahead when you are scared, and I am frightened by the criminal injustice system. It must be held accountable and responsible if it paroles a three-time loser, No. 122632.
I want the public to be aware that prisoners earn points and sentences are changed because of retroactive rulings. (Victims and their families, by the way, receive no points.) Is this truth in sentencing!
Lois Hess writes from Baltimore.