Our tough-on-crime governor has granted his first ever sentence commutations for prisoners doing life for murder. Gov. Martin O’Malley has accepted the recommendations of the state’s Parole Commission in commuting the sentences of Mark Farley Grant and Tamara Settles, but the governor has discouraged the public from interpreting these commutations as a shifting of his stance, and with good reason.
Mark Farley Grant was sentenced to life in prison as a 15-year-old (now 42) for the shooting death of Michael Gough. With the key witness for the prosecution recanting his testimony in 2006, and the University of Maryland School of Law sending O’Malley a report in 2008 outlining their opinion that Grant had been framed for the murder and wrongfully convicted, a commutation (without reference to his probable innocence) in 2012 is really way too little, way too late.
Tamara Settles was convicted 27 years ago of luring a man into being robbed in which he was shot and killed by her boyfriend. The boyfriend, who pulled the trigger, has been out of jail for 19 years, while Settles has continued to serve life, due to the ineptitude of her lawyers.
These commutations are really the exceptions that prove the rule, highlighting the people who regularly pay the price for a “tough on crime” reputation. Does anyone else think this last chance for the wrongfully convicted or excessively sentenced shouldn’t be decided by an ambitious man with a political reputation to cultivate?