“I felt like I lost my father all over again,” said Wilson, who was 13 when her father was murdered and asked to be referred to by her maiden name.
Many of the prisoners being released once had hopes of getting out sooner. When they were given life sentences, the practice was to grant parole after about 20 years, said University of Maryland law professor Michael Millemann, who has been representing some of the defendants. But in 1993 a life-sentenced prisoner on work release killed his estranged girlfriend and then himself, and Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening later announced that anyone with a life sentence would die in prison.
Now, Millemann said, many of the people affected by the Unger ruling are elderly and have health problems. At least two defendants were brought to court in wheelchairs, another on a gurney. Others are struggling with diabetes, arthritis and Hepatitis C.
A person’s health, family support and record in prison are among the things prosecutors are considering when they decide how to handle a case affected by the Unger ruling. In some cases, prosecutors will work to block prisoners from getting a second trial or retry old cases.
In Anne Arundel County, home of the state’s capitol, Annapolis, the county’s top prosecutor, Anne Colt Leitess, said she has a handful of cases affected by the decision, but she doesn’t plan on making any agreements.
“We are not willing to allow people convicted of murder to simply walk out the door without a fight,” she said.
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