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PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Response from Attorney General M. Jane Brady to the 1-28-05 News Journal editorial regarding Evans v. State
I write in response to the vitriolic and unjustified attack you have again made on my office, the fine professionals who work here, and me. I, and the members of my staff, have at all times acted both professionally and appropriately with regard to the matter of Evans v. State.
Evans was convicted in 1982 of Rape in the First Degree, and was sentenced to life. Last year, he asked the Superior Court to find that his sentence was not life, but 45 years. We argued, and the Superior Court agreed, that his sentence was, indeed, a life sentence. Evans appealed to the State Supreme Court, where we argued the matter as we had below. When the Supreme Court issued a decision overturning the Superior Court, we filed a motion for re-argument. Last week, the Supreme Court issued an order denying that motion, and holding the life sentence was not a life sentence, but a 45 year sentence, subject to parole and good time reduction. This made it likely that Evans, and others sentenced for rape, murder, and kidnapping, would be imminently eligible for release, some without any discretion on the part of justice system agencies. At that time, we had to begin the sad, but necessary task of alerting the victims and families of victims what the decision meant in their respective cases.
I have been correctly quoted as saying, the decision had been made, and my responsibility was to implement it. Therefore, I assigned attorneys to review each file of the potentially affected offenders at the Department of Correction, reviewed the involuntary commitment law to determine if we could use that law as a means to keep some of the most dangerous offenders off the streets, and drafted legislation to address sexually violent persons and their release into the community.
Long before the final determination by the Supreme Court, however, indeed, even before the initial Supreme Court decision in November, we informed the Administration of the matter and the potential consequences through the Commissioner of Correction. The Board of Parole, counsel to the Governor, and the Chairs of the Corrections Committees in the House of Representatives and the State Senate were also made aware of the Supreme Court decision when it was initially issued, and its implications.
No one should be surprised at the strong public reaction to the Evans decision. Understandably, there are many people who are disturbed by the decision, and among them are members of the General Assembly. They acted this week in response to the decision, issued last week, and the House and Senate unanimously passed a bill clearly stating that the legislature's intent in the laws they had passed previously was that these sentences were life sentences, and, additionally, declaring the decision null and void.
The legislation, which you opine is unconstitutional, was not proffered by this office or written or reviewed by this office. The first time we saw it was after it was introduced. Indeed, we did not proffer legislation to render the decision void, because we saw no legal way to do that.
It is not clear from your editorial that, for decades, everyone - defense attorneys, prosecutors, victims, legislators, the Board of Parole, the Board of Pardons and judges, thought that the life sentences affected by this order were life sentences. The decision that they are not has a substantial impact on all the justice system. Because no one ever expected these offenders to be released, they have not participated in pre-release programs in the Department of Correction. They are ill prepared to be released into the community, and this only makes them more dangerous.
There is no need to create an "artificial" crisis - it is real for those who now face the reality that the person who murdered their son or daughter, mother or father; or who raped them, is now going to be in the community, contrary to what they were told when the case was resolved and what they have believed since that time. Indeed, the Governor's Commissioner of Correction and the Chair of the Parole Board have said the very same things I have about this matter on the floor of the legislature.
It is unfair to characterize the decision as anything other than a significant and unexpected departure from previous law. If it were not, or if the Court's conclusion in previous cases were so clearly applicable to this issue, do you not think that defense counsel would have been flooding the courts with motions to release the approximately 200 offenders affected by the recent ruling?
This office continues to pursue all legal and constitutional avenues to address this issue. Indeed, we have an obligation to the justice system, the victims, and the public to do so.