One of the mysteries of this business is that it's so easy to get into prison, and so difficult to get out. I'm really upset today, because James deserves to be out. Never mind that he has served 28 years, probably longer than almost any other prisoner in the country on a conviction of assault with intent. Never mind that he has been a model prisoner, and helped the state on numerous occasions. Never mind that the state made promises to him in exchange for his cooperation. He's staying in prison, and that's that.
I'm convinced the Michigan Parole Board never even took at glance at the request for commutation of James' sentence. Because if board members had looked, they would have seen a three page letter from the prosecutor who put James away 28 years ago, RECOMMENDING HIS RELEASE. They would have seen letters from former FBI officials and Michigan State Police officials thanking him for helping to solve cases WHILE HE WAS IN PRISON. They would have seen praise from a prosecutor's office on the other side of the state for his testimony that helped to convict a known murderer. Two attorneys and our office spent months preparing this application, and it was impressive. Yet no one even took a look at it! Within days the PB refused to act on it, and simply sent it to the Governor for a rubber stamp rejection. And within days, the Governor did just that.
What a bunch of crap.
I work in the prisons, I deal with prisoners every day, and I'll be the first to admit that we have prisons for a reason. Many of the people behind bars deserve to be there. But when someone deserves to get out, what's so hard about admitting that, and doing something about it?
The sad thing is that no one with any muscle will get behind James to correct this injustice. Those who know anything about it will simply cluck their teeth and wish him better luck two years from now when he may file for a commutation again. As it turns out, the promises in exchange for testimony were pretty hollow. Why should the state care? They got their end of the deal.
It's my personal opinion that if he were a different color and of means, he might have a better chance.
But he's black and he's indigent.
He doesn't have a prayer.