Thursday, November 20, 2003

Nine women seeking pardons from Patton

Ex-Gov. Jones commuted their sentences eight years ago

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Nine battered women who went to prison for killing or attacking their abusers and whose sentences were commuted eight years ago are now seeking pardons from Gov. Paul Patton.

Former Gov. Brereton Jones, who granted the commutations, is urging his successor to grant the pardons. Jones sent a letter to that effect to Patton in August.

"I think there is evidence that would substantiate the fact that they never should have been incarcerated in the first place," Jones said Wednesday. "I think the least we could do is give them a clean record."

The petitions for pardons were among about 1,000 potential clemency requests awaiting Patton's consideration Wednesday. New petitions arrive almost daily, according to Patton's aides. The governor is not expected to act on any of the requests until his last day in office, Dec. 8, spokeswoman Chris Kellogg said.

The women seeking pardons for crimes that were directly connected to domestic violence are Tracie English, Charlotte Haycraft, Mary Ann Long, Margie Marcum, Johnetta McNair, Sherry Pollard, Paula Richey, Montilla Seewright and Martina Stillwell. None could be located Wednesday.

Records of their cases document "a trail of suffering," said Carol Jordan, Patton's staff adviser on domestic violence policy. Jordan is among those reviewing applications for pardons and commutations.

Most prisoners were victimized at some point, so "we're looking more narrowly," Jordan said. "Is there a nexus, or connection, between their domestic violence experience and their criminal act?"

The women who received commutations from Jones had served 20 percent of their sentences. For other felonies, they already would have been eligible for parole consideration.

But because they were convicted under Kentucky's Violent Offender Act, they were required to serve at least half their sentences. Jones' commutations made them immediately eligible to go before the Parole Board.

"I think the fact that these women have lived a very law-abiding existence since their release indicates that they are worthy of the pardon," Jones said.

In addition, clemency petitions sent to Patton by the state Department of Public Advocacy include recommendations for pardons or commutations for at least 16 battered women. Most are still in prison or jail but some have completed sentences for crimes against their abusers, according to records obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

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