PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carl Danberg, Chief Deputy Attorney General
Pager: (302) 247-1176
Date: January 24, 2005
SUPREME COURT DECISION GRANTS FREEDOM TO PRISONERS SENTENCED TO LIFE
Attorney General Jane Brady Expresses Concern and Promises Quick Action
(Wilmington, DE): On Tuesday, January 14, 2005 the Delaware Supreme Court in Ward Evans v. State (No. 67, 2004) ruled that certain life sentences imposed prior to the adoption of Delaware's Truth-in-Sentencing Act of 1989 is, in the recent interpretation of the law, a 45 year sentence reducible by good time credits. The effect of the Supreme Court's ruling is that nearly 200 inmates serving life sentences for crimes such as Murder, Rape and Kidnapping will be eligible for release, several of them immediately. This decision does not affect sentences imposed for crime committed after June 30, 1990, nor does it affect inmates convicted of Murder First Degree who were sentenced to life without parole. Previously, the legislature, the criminal justice system and the Delaware Supreme Court have consistently considered these sentences to be life sentences subject to parole.
According to Attorney General Brady, "A life sentence has previously meant that a criminal would spend the rest of his life behind bars unless paroled. Now, the Delaware Supreme Court has interpreted the law to mean that life isn't life - it is 45 years, and that the 45 year sentence can be reduced by good time. The practical effect of which is to reduce these life sentences to as little as 26 years despite a denial of parole."
Brady said, "In response to the Court action, my staff and I have already been in contact with the Parole Board and the Department of Correction as well as officials from local police agencies. We will devise a plan that will closely supervise these inmates once they are released. In addition, I urge the General Assembly to swiftly adopt legislation creating a mechanism to permit the involuntary civil commitment of violent sexual predators."
The United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the involuntary civil commitment of violent sexual predators, and at least 16 states have enacted such legislation, including New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota.
Brady said, "We are working with the Board of Parole to find and contact all of the affected victims or their families. My heart goes out to the families that have expected that these convicted, violent criminals would remain in prison for life. Victims who are concerned may call the Department of Justice to obtain information or assistance."
In New Castle County, call Mariann Kenville-Moore at 577-8500; in Kent County, call Jennifer Butler at 739-4211; in Sussex County, call Kim Quillen at 856-5353.