, Salem, MA


November 28, 2013

Dozens of felons freed after court ruling


The majority of the cases the office is handling are in Baltimore, which has about 100 cases and has so far freed close to 40 prisoners, most of them serving time on murder convictions. The ruling doesn’t impact Maryland’s five death row inmates because they were convicted after 1980.

The city’s head prosecutor, State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, said his office is reviewing the cases individually as part of a “deliberate, thoughtful, comprehensive” process that weighs whether they can be retried along with what threat the prisoner might pose to public safety.

Prisoners who have been let go said they appreciate the second chance and that they’ve changed since being imprisoned decades ago. Kareem Hasan, who went to prison at 17 in the fatal shooting a man during a robbery, was one of the first prisoners to be released in May. Hasan, 55, has since gotten a job working at a wastewater treatment plant and is saving money to buy a car. He says he and others want a “chance to show we’re not animals” and “prove our worth.”

Karriem Saleem El-Amin, who was 18 when he went to prison for his role in a grocery store robbery in which two people died, including one of his accomplices, was released in July and now works at a bakery. El-Amin, 60, said he hopes the victims of his crime and others can forgive. “I want them to know that I’m not that guy that I was,” he said during an interview at the University of Maryland’s law school, which has been helping many of the people affected by the decision with their transition back to society.

Not everyone supports the prisoners’ release, however, including some victims’ families. Kevin Magrogan, a retired policeman whose older brother was killed in 1971, said he wanted prosecutors to retry the case but felt they didn’t because of the expense. And Karen Wilson, whose father was murdered in 1969 by a tenant who lived above his Baltimore restaurant, said she felt sick when she learned earlier this year that he would be freed.

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