Tara Perry and the Clemency Six: Where are they now?

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Tara Perry.
It was almost three years ago that I first got interested in the case of Tara Perry, subject of this week's feature, "The Girl Who Fell to Earth." Perry was among several inmates considered strong candidates for clemency -- all of whom were serving disproportionately long sentences and appeared to pose little public safety risk -- that I ended up profiling in a 2009 article, "The Quality of Mercy." So what's changed since then?

Not much, actually. Although Colorado governors have the power to trim sentences in cases where the punishment was excessive or to reward good behavior by prisoners with a pardon or a commuted sentence, it's a power that's been exercised less and less in the past three decades. A strong clemency policy can serve justice and save taxpayers a lot of unnecessary expense, but it's also politically risky.

Bill Ritter, who sat in the governor's chair when Perry applied for clemency, came to office with big ideas about reforming the state's costly corrections system. He even launched a second clemency board to address the issue of inmates serving long sentences in the adult system for crimes committed as juveniles. Perry would seem to have been an ideal candidate for that process, a sixteen-year-old with no prior record serving forty years for her role in a three-day series of armed robberies engineered by her suicidal boyfriend -- the longest sentence of any juvenile who didn't kill or physically injure anyone.

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Donny Andrews.
But Perry's bid for clemency went nowhere, for bureaucratic reasons detailed in my feature. Other inmates mentioned in that 2009 piece had their applications denied, too, or aren't yet eligible to apply. Donny Andrews, a first-time offender who went into the system way back in 1989 at the age of twenty, is still doing an eighty-year sentence for a series of nonviolent crimes. According to a Facebook page put up by his supporters, he's preparing to reapply to Governor John Hickenlooper.

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Krystal Voss.
Krystal Voss, convicted in the 2003 death of her eighteen-month-old son Kyran, is facing her first parole hearing next month. It's a grim dilemma for Voss; although she's been a model prisoner in many ways, parole board members tend to expect expressions of mea culpa and remorse from applicants, and Voss is still fighting her conviction and maintaining her innocence in the muddled shaken-baby case. As we reported in previous coverage, the original suspect in Kyran's death ended up being the chief witness against Voss, and an appeals court found judicial error and improper conduct by the prosecution at her trial -- but refused to overturn the verdict. That Voss feels some degree of responsibility for the situation that caused her son's death is undeniable, but will it be enough to convince the board that she deserves a chance in society?

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Dietrick Mitchell.
As for the other inmates doing long sentences for crimes committed as juveniles, one did get some love from Ritter's clemency board -- but only a smidgen. Dietrick Mitchell was sentenced to life without parole for a hit-and-run fatality when he was sixteen. Prosecutors called it a gang slaying; Mitchell's lawyers called it an accident. It was, in any case, the longest sentence of any traffic case in the state, and Ritter commuted Mitchell's sentence to 32 years. Since he'd already served twenty, that made him eligible for parole. But the board turned him down and told him he couldn't reapply for another five years. He did get approved for community corrections -- but then a new law in 2011 snatched that away, since it prohibits halfway house placement of offenders more than six months away from a parole hearing.

"Who stands a better chance of being rehabilitated, a child or a child molester?" Mitchell asks in a letter to Westword. "Child molesters are being treated as soon as they arrive into the prison system for counseling, therapy and life skills, while we are just thrown in here and left for dead."

For more on the Tara Perry case and clemency issues, check out my interview with Ryan Warner on Colorado Public Radio's "Colorado Matters," which airs today on KCFR, 90.1 FM at 7 p.m. and is available as a podcast here:

More from our Videos archive: "Video: Tara Perry on boyfriend Randy Miller's rampage and suicide."


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5 comments
tearcollector
tearcollector

How true that pedophiles, rapists and other violent offenders get let out time and time again. Meanwhile, so many are given long sentences for much less. More and more prisons are being bought and run by private companies which means we will see more inflated sentences. Guess that's the cost of doing business.

William Parker
William Parker

I've been involved with the case of Mr. Charles Farrar who's serving a 145 year for a crime that never happened. His step daughter claimed that he sexually molested her when she was 15 She testified, and after he was found guilty she came forward and recanted her story, saying it never happened. He's still in prison after 10 years with only 135 more to go.  And you think you have problems... https://www.facebook.com/pages...

Jane Strauss
Jane Strauss

My friend, George Martorano, is serving his 30th year of a life without parole sentence for marijuana trafficking. Before being sentenced by Judge John Hannum (see Wikipedia-John Hannum) George never even had a parking ticket. He is a 1st time non-violent offender that unfortunately was given a draconian sentence by this judge. The prosecutor was asking for between 48-52 months.

Unfortunately, there are with sentences similar to George.  Something is very wrong when we give parole to murderers, rapists, child molesters, but through the key away to a non-violent offender for a drug charge. George is America's most prolific prison Author & has 6 books published on Smashwords.com. To read more about George, go to WeBelieveGroup.com.

Ggjllfdfv
Ggjllfdfv

Rapists, pedophiles and other violent felonies get let out early?? Your full of shit, no they dont. Unless you have proof to back that claim up????

draconia sentences are handed in this god awful country to people every day. Its not for just one type of crime either. Prosecutor s and judges think nothing of locking someone up and throwing away the key, they could care less if your guilty or innocent. You are very right about this being a direct result of the private prison scame that has lined the pockets of a select few. One day the people will take back this country, till then its business as usual, lisa andrus is another demented prosecutor that needs to be investigated

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