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Old 08-10-2004, 11:13 AM
DeniseJJ DeniseJJ is offline
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Post Costs aside, some people simply must be locked up

Costs aside, some people simply must be locked up

Sunday, August 08, 2004
Huntsville Times
Alabamians, by and large, are not fond of criminals. They want them locked up for good, or worse.

But every now and then you can persuade Alabamians that it costs too much to keep every lawbreaker behind bars, that some criminals ought to be dealt with in other ways.

It's a hard sell, of course, but persuasion is possible.

That's why it's so frustrating when the state Board of Pardons and Paroles displays one of its periodic spasms of bad judgment, as it did last week.

Finishing the job

In 1990, then-35-year-old Melanie Gray Lowery of Etowah County murdered her husband, minister Jackie Ray Lowery. She shot him in the head. Then she burned and dismembered his body. The job not quite finished, she chopped up the dismembered parts and buried them.

Why'd she do it? She wanted the insurance money.

Melanie Lowery pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years. Not bad for a hard-ball state. One condition was that she would not apply for parole until she had completed 131/2 years of her sentence. That came not long ago. You guessed it; she applied for parole.

And last week, the parole board voted 2-1 to let Lowery out of prison, despite the protestations of Gov. Bob Riley and others. Riley noted that his expansion of the parole board and his desire to move prisoners out of state custody more quickly was not meant to apply to the likes of Melanie Lowery.

As a result of the publicity, a few days later one member of the board changed his mind. Lowery will stay behind bars for now and will get another hearing in a couple of months.

But the governor and the board still may not be entirely in sync. Cynthia Dillard, the board's deputy director, was quoted in press reports as saying that once the board had exhausted the pool of nonviolent criminals who might be paroled, it had to look at the violent ones, too.

There may be mitigating factors in Lowery's case. I don't know. But it does seem to me that common sense and public sentiment pretty much agree: The nature of her crime, its motivations and her subsequent actions in trying to conceal it do not indicate that she was a victim of either circumstances or a sudden impulse.

A need for protection

A lot of people in this state would think she should have gotten the death penalty. But even those who disagree with capital punishment do not necessarily argue for leniency. Putting aside such arguable issues as justice and punishment, one's still left with the obvious need for protection.

Is Melanie Lowery a danger to society? Instinct and, again, common sense argue that she might be. The benefit of the doubt ought to be accorded to us, not to her.

Although the parole board has now acted to keep her locked up, Gov. Riley may want to look again at who serves on the board and how it reaches its decisions. This wasn't the first bad call, and I fear it won't be the last.

Last edited by DeniseJJ; 08-10-2004 at 11:15 AM..
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