FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s attorney general challenged a new state parole board rule Friday, claiming the policy gives “the worst of the worst” another chance at having their life-in-prison sentences cut short.
The rule applies to dozens of inmates, including some of Kentucky's most notorious murderers. Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed the lawsuit in Laurel County Circuit Court, asking a judge to invalidate the policy. He claims the rule violates both state law and Kentucky's constitution.
“This new directive is a startling reversal by the board that not only disregards the rights of crime victims, but it fails to follow the law,” Cameron said.
The suit seeks a restraining order as well as injunctions against the rule.
The new policy has sparked an outcry from prosecutors statewide. Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele joined Cameron in filing the suit, which asks for an expedited review by the court.
State parole board officials said Friday that they can’t comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit takes aim at the rule limiting the parole board’s ability to order a prisoner to serve out a life sentence at an initial parole eligibility hearing. The directive grants a new parole hearing to more than 40 Kentucky prisoners previously ordered by the board to serve out life sentences for such crimes as murder, rape and kidnapping, Cameron’s office said.
The suit says the case involves "the worst of the worst’’ and says they were “rightfully sentenced” to life in prison. Allowing new parole hearings would force the victims’ families ”to relive these terrible crimes,” Cameron said.
“A life sentence should be just that,” the suit said. “When the board tells a family that the person who killed their loved ones must serve out their sentence, the person must serve it.”
The suit claims the parole board lacked the legal authority to issue the directive this spring. Even if it did have the authority, the board failed to follow the administrative regulation process, which requires a review by state lawmakers and a public comment period, the suit said.
Prisoners now serving life sentences who are now eligible for a new parole hearing include a man responsible for the murder and kidnapping of two high school students, a woman responsible for murdering her 10-year-old stepson, a man who killed two teens on their first date and a man responsible for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing a college student, Cameron's office said.
If the rule is allowed to stand, some prisoners previously ordered to serve out life sentences are scheduled to receive another parole eligibility hearing as early as next month, his office added.
That would subject the victims' families to a “gut-wrenching experience,” the suit said.