Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board members seek attorney general's opinion on sentence commutation

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board wants a legal opinion on whether its members can commute the sentences of inmates, including those sentenced for 85 percent crimes.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: August 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm •  Published: August 14, 2012
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85 percent is at issue

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.

Jenks said state laws don't prohibit the board from granting commutation to inmates sentenced under the 85 percent law.

The statutory language, including the 85 percent crimes language, states that “nothing in this act shall be construed to impair or abrogate the use of clemency by way of commutation or pardon,” Jenks wrote in his letter to Pruitt.

Pardon and Parole Board members have said no one who was convicted of an 85 percent crime has been considered for or granted parole before eligibility and that only a few 85 percent convicts were considered for commutation.

Fallin, others meet

Gov. Mary Fallin, who appointed three of the five parole board members, and her legal staff along with her chief of staff met Monday with Jenks. Others in the meeting were Parole Board Chairman Lynnell Harkins, Parole Board Deputy Director J.D. Daniels and the agency's general counsel. The request for the attorney general's opinion came after the meeting.

“The governor's office will continue to work toward ensuring the law is obeyed and justice is properly served,” said Aaron Cooper, Fallin's press secretary. “As she has maintained all along, the governor believes transparency and openness are essential for the Pardon and Parole Board as well as the clemency process itself.”