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Appeals court in North Carolina blocks the release of 2 convicted killers

Associated Press / December 15, 2009

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RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina’s appeals court temporarily blocked the release of two convicted murderers sentenced under a 1970s law that limited life terms.

The court clerk issued an order yesterday approving a request to halt the case, but he gave no explanation. The decision gives state attorneys another chance to contend the inmates should not be set free.

Superior Court Judge Ripley Rand had ordered convicted murderers Alford Jones and Faye Brown freed earlier yesterday. Their attorneys pursuaded Rand that sentence-reduction credits have shortened their life terms, which were defined as 80 years when they were sentenced.

Rand’s ruling was a setback to Governor Beverly Perdue’s attempt to keep dozens of murderers and rapists behind bars.

Jones, 55, and Brown, 56, are the first two convicts to win a court order for release by arguing time credits cut years off of life terms under the 1970’s law.

Rand said the Department of Correction was wrongly interpreting its regulations on sentence-reduction credits.

Two dozen other inmates who are in similar situations to Jones and Brown.

After state courts defined their sentences as only 80 years, officials had scrambled to prepare them for release.

Lawyers for Jones and Brown had said that they had received years of sentence-reduction credits while behind bars. They contended last week that the credits and the old limit on the length of life terms mean their prison time is complete.

State lawyers had said that the credits awarded to Jones and Brown were to be used for purposes of parole eligibility and other matters.