As far left governors across the country advocate for the release of prison inmates due to the Covid “pandemic,” one particularly egregious case has gone up before the Washington state parole board: The possible release of Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River killer, who killed between 48 and 71 women during the 1980’s and 90’s, and Isaac Zamora, who killed six people in a 2008 shooting.
Governor Jay Inslee initially released about 1000 inmates earlier this month. But that wasn’t enough for the far left lawyer group Columbia Legal Services, who has sued the state and argued for immediately release of 12,000 prison inmates.
Somehow this case was fast-tracked to the state supreme court, while many other people wait years for the court to address their appeals.
Justices heard virtual oral arguments in the case nonprofit law firm Columbia Legal Services filed last month on behalf of five inmates at various state prisons. The petition seeks to require Inslee and DOC to release inmates who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, as well as those nearing release.
Chief Justice Debra Stephens asked Nick Straley, an attorney with Columbia Legal, about the constitutional grounds for when the judiciary “gets to interfere with the exercise of discretion” by another branch of government, in this case the executive branch during an emergency.
“The duty is to protect our clients from COVID-19, and all of the scientific evidence before the court indicates there have to be releases (of inmates) to do that,” Straley replied.
Stephens said she still had concerns about what the high court would tell Inslee and state Department of Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair to do.
“What is the mandate? We’re going to tell them, `release x number apparently,’ but I heard you say earlier they’d have discretion on who is safe to release,” Stephens said.
Staley replied: “What is constitutionally compelled is to operate a safe prison system and in this context, what that means is there are a number of people who can be safely held in the prisons. That is a number that can be determined. Can I tell you today what that number is? No. But neither can the Department of Corrections.”
The exchange, which mirrored an earlier one with Justice Steven Gonzalez, highlighted the major issues in the lawsuit.
Columbia Legal asserts that Inslee and the state prison system have violated the “cruel punishment” clause in the state Constitution that protects inmates from “a substantial risk of serious harm.”
Inslee has used an emergency proclamation and commutation order to authorize the early release of about 1,100 inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.
Straley said that’s not enough to provide social distancing. He urged the court to appoint an independent expert — referred to as a “special master” — to gather facts so the number can be determined. Social distancing involves being at least 6 feet apart from others.
Straley said the court should order Inslee and Sinclair to release about 3,400 inmates who are within 18 months of release and don’t have a requirement for the state to notify their victims before release. He also said the court should release the five inmates that Columbia Legal represents.
Columbia Legal has asked the court to identify all inmates who are 50 years old or over, those who have underlying medical conditions which put them at risk of serious harm or death from COVID-19, and those who have early release dates within the next 18 months or are currently on work release.
The Attorney General’s Office places the number of inmates in those categories at 11,715 including 5,272 who have committed serious violent offenses such as murder, assault, and rape.
Gary Ridgway and Isaac Zamora are two of those inmates who meet that criteria.
Families of these murder victims were forced to write documents for the record opposing his release. This drudged up all sorts of horrible memories for the family members. One such person was Tonya Fenton, whose mother was one of Zamora’s victims. Fenton posted this emotional video talking about the horror of recalling the entire experience and tragedy.
Fortunately for society, the Washington supreme court denied Straley and his “Columbia legal services” and those violent offenders will remain behind bars, as The Daily Mail reports:
The Green River Killer – who murdered at least 49 women and evaded capture for two decades – has been denied release from prison, as thousands of Washington prison inmates are told they must stay behind bars during the pandemic.
The state Supreme Court of Washington voted 5-4 Thursday against releasing prisoners across the state while the coronavirus crisis rages on, after victims and the attorney general’s office voiced outrage that some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals could be let out onto the streets.
Gary Ridgway, the so-called Green River Killer, must now see out the pandemic from his cell in Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Thousands of inmates – about two-thirds of the state’s prison population – filed a lawsuit claiming that Governor Jay Inslee and the Department of Corrections were not providing safe conditions for prisoners amid the pandemic.
Wait, four of the supreme court justices voted in favor of releasing these inmates? Who were they? This author has not been able to find the details of the ruling.
In addition to Nick Straley, Columbia Legal Services attorneys on the matter included Nicholas Allen and Janet S. Chung, as shown on their 138 page motion.
If only these attorneys advocated this passionately for victims.