The state Court of Appeals on Monday afternoon halted the release of two inmates sentenced to life in prison, hours after a Superior Court judge ordered their release.
Judge Ripley Rand ruled Monday morning in the cases of convicted murderers Alford Jones and Faye Brown. Both were sentenced in the 1970s under an old law that defined a life sentence as 80 years.
Attorneys for both inmates argued last week that the old law, combined with good-behavior credits meant to reduce sentences, mean their clients’ prison terms are complete.
Correction officials said state law prohibits felons serving life prison sentences from receiving good behavior credits for purposes of unconditional release from prison. The credits were awarded only for purposes of earning a more favorable custody grade, for becoming eligible for parole or for a commutation of a sentence by the governor.
Rand ruled the Department of Correction wrongly interpreted its regulation on the sentence-reduction credits. His order would have released the two inmates at 5 p.m., but the appeals court issued temporary stays of the decisions by 4 p.m.
The Court of Appeals will now review Rand’s orders, but there’s no timetable for when the court will decide the matter.
Gov. Beverly Perdue said Monday she was “furious” over Rand’s rulings.
“This is not how government and the courts are supposed to work for the people of North Carolina,” Perdue said. “This is wrong. I’ve been in politics a long time, and I have never been this disgusted with the system in my life.”
Brown, 56, was convicted 34 years ago in Martin County of murder and sentenced to death after she and two acquaintances robbed a bank and one of the men shot Trooper Guy Thomas Davis Jr. of the state Highway Patrol. Her sentence was eventually commuted to a life sentence.
Jones was convicted of murder in Lenoir County 34 years ago for the shooting death of William B. Turner Sr. Likewise, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison