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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sees no malicious intent by Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin believes improvements can be made in how parole board members bring up which inmates should be considered to have their sentences commuted, aides say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: August 9, 2012

Fallin reviews all parole board recommendations, Weintz said, spending an estimated eight to 10 hours a month reviewing an estimated 100 to 150 cases. Since taking office in January 2011, the GOP governor has approved about 51 percent of the inmates who have been recommended for parole by the parole board, considerably less than the 85 percent rate of her Democratic predecessor during the first 18 months he was in office.

Prater, Oklahoma County's district attorney, said earlier this week the parole board's actions on docket modifications violate the state's Open Meeting Act.

Fallin is taking Prater's concerns “very seriously” and has asked parole board members to place a moratorium on the practice of docket modifications, Weintz said.

The governor believes the actions by the board should be as open as possible, he said.

Prater also questioned whether board members have the authority to recommend early release or commutations for inmates serving 85 percent sentences.

Certain felony convictions of violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, carry the requirement that an offender serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

State law, however, doesn't state that inmates serving 85 percent sentences can't be granted commutation, said Rebecca Frazier, Fallin's deputy legal counsel.

The state constitution gives parole board members the power to recommend commutations, pardons and paroles except in cases regarding convicts sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. It also gives the governor the authority to commute sentences after a favorable recommendation by a majority vote of the board.

The governor is seeking a formal request to Attorney General Scott Pruitt for an official opinion on whether inmates serving 85 percent sentences are eligible for commutation.

The governor doesn't think there's malicious intent in anything the Pardon and Parole Board was doing. However, there are improvements that can be made and we're going to work on those.”

Alex Weintz

Communications director for Gov. Mary Fallin

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