Flawed Sentences Reopen Murder Cases for Parole

Arizona is known for having some of the harshest punishments for certain crimes, and this is highlighted by the fact that the state abolished parole—or the early release of prisoners before reaching the maximum sentence of a crime—in 1993. In 2019, this will become a significant problem, because prosecutors have been making plea bargains with parole involved, and some individuals have been handed down sentences of 25-years to life with the possibility of parole despite the change to the law. This means that individuals sentenced to murder and other serious crimes are entitled to parole hearings, but complications are imminent, since this sentence technically no longer exists in the state of Arizona.

A Non-Existent Sentence

There is a clause allowing for possible release after serving a minimum sentence, but this differs from parole, because it requires that an individual file a release request with the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency, which may be denied based on any number of factors. With parole, individuals are automatically granted a hearing at the 25-year mark. Because cases tried on or after January 1, 1994 have still included parole, but the sentence doesn’t actually exist, those who were sentenced 25-to-life with the possibility of parole will face an uncertain future.

Cases Without a Clear Solution

Murder cases are a particular concern with this issue, because there are many that feel that those convicted of murder and other violent crimes are not going to be sufficiently rehabilitated with any length of prison sentence. However, since the justice system has not been consistent with sentencing practices and the abolishment of parole, there is high pressure from the federal court as well as affected defendants.

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