Kentucky attorney general files suit against state parole board

The lawsuit challenges a new directive "that not only disregards the rights of crime victims, but it fails to follow the law," AG Daniel Cameron said


By Carla Slavey
Commonwealth Journal
        
FRANKFORT, Ky. — One day after Commonwealth's Attorney David Dalton filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Parole Board, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron did the same in Laurel Circuit Court on behalf of Kentucky victims and families affected by the board's most recent order.

Prosecutors were blindsided last month after the Parole Board did an about-face on a prior recommendation that concerned forcing offenders with life sentences to serve out their entire sentence after being denied parole at their first hearing.

Such an order affects families like those of Taiann Wilson and Matthew Coomer, two Pulaski teens who were murdered in 1995 by Jeffrey Brian Coffey.

Coffey was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years, but at his eligibility hearing last year — his first — he was not only denied parole but was told he would serve out the remainder of his life in prison.

That's what the families of the victims were told as well. But then the Kentucky Parole Board issued a new directive saying "serve outs" could not be given during a first hearing. They applied the new rule retroactively to 45 inmates, including Coffey.

Just as Dalton stated in his complaint that the rule change violated state law, so too does Cameron.

"The crime victims and their families affected by this directive have already gone through the excruciating process of one Parole Board hearing, and they were given assurance by the Board that those responsible for carrying out heinous and violent crimes would spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole," said Attorney General Cameron.

"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. "If the directive is allowed to stand, Kentucky families will be forced to relive these terrible crimes, and a dangerous precedent will be established for how the Parole Board can issue directives and treat crime victims."

Cameron's lawsuit argues the Parole Board does not have the legal authority to issue the new directive and states that even if the board did have such authority, it failed to act through the administrative regulation process set forth by Kentucky law.

According to Cameron's office, that process requires the regulation to be reviewed by legislators and undergo a public comment period.

The lawsuit notes that "the Board issued its directive covertly without notifying Commonwealth's Attorneys or the public, including the crime victims."

Coffey's case was noted by Cameron's office as being one of the 45 prisoners affected by the new order.

Cameron's office also listed the cases of a man responsible for the murder and kidnapping of two Trinity High School students; a woman responsible for murdering her 10 year-old step-son; and a man responsible for kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and killing a college student at Alice Lloyd College.
     
(c)2021 the Commonwealth Journal (Somerset, Ky.)

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