An Open Letter to Governor Perdue: This is a Dangerous Precedent in Violation of the Constitution

Governor Perdue, as your constituent, I feel it is your duty, as well as that of all politicians, to fairly and objectively evaluate the law. Further, I feel it is my duty to hold the government to the same standard that they hold us to, providing it works within the frameworks of the constitution.

Sadly, I feel that you are failing me in this regard, specifically in the manner in which you are handling the release of a handful of inmates that were sentenced during the 1970's.

A Step Back From Emotions

Before explaining my views and evidence to support this claim, I find it necessary to express the contempt I have for these men who are petitioning the state for their release. There is no way to justify what they did, nor is there any way they will ever be able to make up for their crimes. My heart goes out to all of those who have been affected with their crimes.

However, it is necessary to put these emotions aside for a moment and objectively consider the situation. As much as it hurts, we must put these thoughts aside and not use an appeal to emotion, which is a logical fallacy where the argument is fought using emotion, rather than logic. A fallacy that you, as our elected governor, Mrs. Perdue, should be above, instead of fanning with each one of your speeches.

Our Society is One Based on Laws

In a perfect society, these men would have never killed or hurt anyone. In a less than perfect society, these men and women would never see the light of day. In a society that is neither of these and instead based on the rule of law, the prisoner's freedom would be determined by consulting the recorded laws.

For better or worse we are a society of laws. We were founded with laws, we live with laws, and we die with laws. This requires that we use the laws to determine what is right or wrong.

This is not just a requirement, but a necessity, as otherwise, the sanctity of law is destroyed. The very fabric of our nation is torn and the foundation that our entire society is based on is turned to dust.

Seeing the Big Picture

Further, when you remove the appeal to emotion and look at the facts of the case, this is not a situation about murderers going free, this is a case of the Government re-writing the law as they see fit when they see fit. Something that is in direct violation to the principals and rules set forth by our founding fathers when they wrote the constitution.

It is easy for people to say, "I don't care about these murderers. They deserve to rot.", but as soon as we permit the government to change the law at a whim, we are setting a dangerous precedent, that makes it much easier for them to do it next time, with each subsequent change becoming that much easier. This happens time and time again and unfortunately, it is much easier to take away a constitutional right, than it ever is to get it back.

As evidence, see the patriot act, which allows warrantless wiretaps of suspected "terrorists," yet of all of the wiretaps issued, less than 1% were actually for terrorism. The rest were simply used to circumvent the fifth amendment and the court system.

Putting it in Perspective

To help put this concept in perspective, I can not stress how important it is to not fall victim to ones emotions and instead try for a moment to see this for what it is.

For example, imagine if when you went to pay your taxes, the IRS said "Well, the law says you only owe $1000, but we don't really think this is enough. You have to pay us $10,000."

How about if you were pulled over for going the speed limit and the officer said, "Well the speed limit is 65 and you were going 60, but I think that is too fast. I am writing you a ticket for going 60 in a 35."

Would either of these situations be okay?

The answer, of course, is no. An overwhelming no, but because the release of these murderers does not directly affect us or scares us, most simply do not care or are unwilling to look at the real implications of this decision.

So What is the Law

I will go into more detail on the specifics of the law below, including quotes and citation, so you can read it yourself or better yet, go find a copy of the General Statutes and read it yourself.

However, in summary, the law is clear that these inmates are legally in the right. It is so clear, in fact, that the higher courts have twice reviewed the laws and twice ruled in favor of the inmates, yet you, Governor, flaunt our courts decision at each turn. If you actually go back and look at the law, it is quite clear that as written, these inmates should be released.

If there is someone you would like to hold responsible, you should be looking for those involved with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Perhaps you could find out why it was changed during the second session of 1980, which is what gave the prisoner's their right to be free when a single sentence was removed from the law.

Or perhaps, you could track down the Director of Corrections during this time and find out why he decided to apply these credits to those convicted of Murder and other crimes.

In either case, you are wrong about the law, Governor Perdue and the injustice to the people of North Carolina that you keep on bringing up in your speeches is actually your inability to objectively and fairly use your power to support the General Stautues of our State.

I Understand Your Predicament

With all this said, I understand your predicament Mrs. Perdue.

Unfortunately, the majority of your constituents are not able to see the big picture or even understand how letting some murderers go free could possibly have any effect on their life. However, this is a fight that is much deeper than anyone getting out of prison, this is a fight to ensure that the sanctity of our laws are preserved and the power of the Government is kept in check.

I feel it is your duty to make the difficult decision and follow the constitution, even if it is something that is hard to do. This is your number one duty, even if it makes you unpopular with your constituents. This is a duty you are failing as you pander to the masses and you are not alone in this. Sadly, this has become the standard, but just because everyone else does it, does not make it right.

I leave you with a quote from William Blackstone, which has become an integral part of our judicial system, but one that you seem to willfully disregard.

[It is] better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer

Some Facts About the DOC

  • Violent Criminals are released each month. Thousands of them.
  • In November 2009 in Wake County alone, 148 inmates were released.
  • Of them, over 20% were violent Criminals
  • Of them, 12 involved crimes against children, 10 of which were indecent liberties with a minor
  • 1 Murderer convicted of First Degree Murder was released after serving 28 years of a LIFE sentence
  • 1 Murder convicted of Second Degree Murder was released after serving 18 years of a 73 Year Sentence
  • 1 Rapist was released
  • So far in the first 15 days of December 2009, 60 criminals have been released in Wake County, 3 of whom are convicted murderers, one of which was sentenced to LIFE

The Law Regarding these Inmates

In the seventies, for a few years, the General Statutes defined a life sentence as 80 years. Under this law, a number of inmates were sentenced.

Section 14-2 of the 1974 version of the General Statutes Stated

[...] A sentence of life imprisonment shall be considered as a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 80 years in the state's prison.

Later, towards the end of the seventies, a law was added that allowed the judge to be a little more lenient with his sentences and take into account other factors, such as a persons criminal record and whether or not it was a violent crime, when sentencing them for a crime. The purpose of this law was to help address disparities in sentencing that resulted in mandatory sentences for some crimes, regardless of the situations. Arguably, this was a backwards attempt to address what were effectively Jim Crow Laws, but this was a round about way of addressing the issue.

As part of the above legislation, the General Assembly also decided to give most convicted criminals 1 day off their sentence for each 1 day of good behavior. This was called gain time and was very specific about who could take it.

G.S 15A-1340.7 States:

[Under the supervision of the Director of Corrections credit is offered...] at the rate of one day deducted from his prison or jail term for each day he spends in custody without a major infraction of prisoner conduct rules.

The Last Sentence of Section 15A-1340.7, which would have prevented these inmates release was:

The Provisions of this section shall not apply to persons convicted of Class A or Class B Felonies (PAGE 855 1979 Session Law )

However, during the Second Session of 1980, this was amended in Section 36, which stated.

G.S. 15A-1340.7(b) is amened by deleting the last sentence thereforof.(Page 250)

Inmates that were convicted prior to the passage of this law, the Director of Corrections was given the ability to decide who would receive benefits.

G.S. 148-13 section (b):

With respect to prisoner who are serving prison or jail terms either for felonies that occurred before the effective date of Article 81A of Chapter 15 A of the General Statutes, or for misdemeanors regardless of the date of occurrence, the Secretary of Correction may, in his discretion, issue regulations regarding deductions of time from the terms of such prisoners for good behavior, meritorious conduct, work or study, participation in rehabilitation programs and the like. (PAGE 856)

It is important to note that as part of the Fair Sentencing Act, the decision to give these inmates gain time was made by the director of corrections, who was required to give ALL inmates a copy of their projected release date and the decision was made to give gain time to the inmates in question.

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