A Louisiana board has granted parole to a man at the center of a case that helped change rules for juveniles sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, the Associated Press reported.
Henry Montgomery was granted parole after spending his adult life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary for a crime he was convicted of in 1963. At 17, he was convicted of shooting and killing East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hurt. Now 75, Montgomery was granted parole by a three-member board’s unanimous vote. The board established a curfew for Montgomery and barred him from being in contact with Hurt’s family.
“He’s been in prison for 57 years,” board member Tony Marabella said. “He has an excellent…disciplinary record. He is a low risk by our assessment. He’s got good comments from the warden. He has a very good prison record.”
The Supreme Court viewed Montgomery’s case in 2016. As a result of its findings, it extended a 2012 ruling labeling life sentences for juvenile offenders as “cruel and unusual” punishment to offenders already in prison. The ruling resulted in around 800 inmates who were given life sentences as juveniles being released.
The Louisiana Parole Project will assist Montgomery with adjusting to civilian life. Program director Andrew Hundley testified in his support during the meeting along with others affiliated with the project.
“There is nothing left for him to accomplish at the Louisiana State Penitentiary,” Hundley said at the meeting. “It is time for Henry to come home.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Montgomery was initially sentenced to death, but the state’s Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 1966, saying he didn’t get a fair trial. The case was retried, Montgomery was convicted again but this time sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After the Supreme Court decision, he was resentenced in 2017 to life with parole and the state judge who resentenced Montgomery called him a “model prisoner” who appears to be rehabilitated. But then the parole board rejected his application two times, most recently in 2019.
The nonprofit was created by Hundley, a former juvenile lifer, to assist people who have served long prison sentences—generally 20 years or more—re-enter society. The organization helps former inmates with housing, signing up for health care or medications, getting an ID card and learning how to navigate society.
When the unanimous decision was announced they could be seen clapping at the news.
His release was not without opposition. Hurt, the sheriff’s deputy who Montgomery killed, was married and had three children. Two of his daughters have met with Montgomery in prison and forgiven him, but family members have opposed his release. A prosecutor from the area where Montgomery’s crime occurred spoke against his parole as did one of the deputy’s daughters, Linda Hurt Woods.
“I do not believe that he should be released at this time,” said Woods, saying that the decision shows deep disrespect to law enforcement officers. “He made a decision at 17 years old. You know right from wrong at 17. I did.”
Montgomery himself said little during the roughly half-hour hearing. According to his lawyer, Keith Nordyke, he is extremely hard of hearing, and Nordyke often had to repeat questions from the board members. At times Montgomery said he was struggling to find words to express himself.
“I’m really sorry that I, that this happened,” Montgomery said. “I am going to have to live with this all my life, the rest of my life.”
“The decision to grant Mr. Montgomery parole today is long overdue,” Jody Kent Lavy, the organization’s co-executive director, said in a statement. “It’s a grave injustice that he has served over 57 years in prison for a crime he committed as a teenager, despite evidence he was rehabilitated long ago.”
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