Courts will tackle battle over releasing inmates - WNCN: News, Weather

Courts will tackle battle over releasing inmates

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by Justin Moss

The battle has quieted for now over releasing more than two dozen inmates who were sentenced to life in prison.

The state had planned to release 27 violent offenders, whose crimes include murder and rape, on Thursday, because of a 1974 law that defined a life-sentence as 80 years.

The issue was prompted by inmate Bobby Bowden, who argued the law allowed his release because he'd also earned credit for the time he's been behind bars.

Last week, Gov. Bev Perdue ordered the inmates to stay in prison until the courts could resolve the issue.

Bowden's case will head back to Cumberland County, where it originated. It's unclear when that court will take up the issue.

State officials are also taking a closer look at the sentences of all the inmates in question, which means no prisoners will be set free for the time being.

On Monday, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice spoke out, saying the law that was originally passed decades ago should stand.

CEO Dick Taylor said the group wanted to send a clear message to the state.

"Apply the law as it is, not as you would like it to be," he said. "To do otherwise strikes a blow to our democracy."

Last Thursday, Perdue's Press Secretary, Chrissy Pearson, said the governor questions whether the Correction Secretary back then had the authority to reduce prison sentences.

"We're not sure he had the authority to do that. We don't believe the General Assembly intended for him to have the authority to do that," Pearson said.

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