FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher commuted the sentences of three convicted murderers, including a death row inmate, and pardoned more than 80 other people on Monday, his last day in office.
Among those who received commuted sentences was Jeffrey Devan Leonard, a brain-damaged Louisville man who has spent nearly 25 years on Kentucky's death row. Leonard had exhausted his appeals of a conviction in the 1983 murder of Louisville consignment store owner Esther Stewart and was in line to have an execution date set.
Fletcher's action won't free Leonard. He still must serve life without the possibility of parole, said Fletcher's general counsel, David Fleenor.
Ernie Lewis, executive director of the Department of Public Advocacy, praised Fletcher for commuting Leonard's sentence.
"By his decision, the governor has acted with conviction, compassion and courage," Lewis said. "Executing Jeffrey Leonard would have been a significant and irrevocable injustice."
Lewis said Leonard was represented by a disbarred and indicted lawyer who did not even know his client's real name.
Fletcher also commuted the 20-year sentence of a state lawmaker's son who was convicted of killing a 62-year-old pedestrian while driving drunk in 2005.
Harrison Yonts - whose father, Brent Yonts, is a state representative from western Kentucky - was convicted in February on a charge of wanton murder in the death of Nadia Shaheen, a graduate student at Murray State University who was walking home from the campus computer lab when she was struck.
The jury also convicted Yonts, 21, of drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident and tampering with physical evidence. Yonts would have had to serve 17 years before becoming eligible for parole. Under his commuted sentence, Yonts will have to serve only eight years, Fleenor said.
A third man, Demond Brown of Hopkinsville, who was serving 20 years for wanton murder after a collision that killed two people in Christian County, will be freed from prison as soon as the paperwork is filed. Fleenor said Brown is "mildly retarded" and that he should not have been sent to prison for what was essentially a horrible accident.
"We were as fair as we could be," Fleenor said Monday evening. "There will be people who feel like they should have gotten a pardon and didn't. There will be victims out there who feel like pardons shouldn't be issued, and there will be prosecutors who will be taking my name in vain."
Fleenor said the people who received gubernatorial pardons had been convicted in years past on a variety of offenses but that all had since completed their sentences.
Fletcher had already pardoned nine women, most of whom were convicted of killing abusive husbands. Those pardons, announced Sunday, were Fletcher's first since those he offered to his entire administration in the wake of an indictments related to a grand jury probe into alleged illegal patronage.
Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister whose term ends at midnight on Monday, said he opted to pardon the women "based on their individual circumstances."
Public defender Marguerite Neill-Thomas said in most of the cases the women had lived in fear of abusive husbands.
Granted pardons were:
Jonathan Ray Kirby of Morgantown
Ronald W. Lindsey of Corbin
Daryl Howard Littrell of Bromley
Michael Jay Lundy of Louisville
Raymond Banks of Campton
Pamela Sue Luttrell of Versailles
Donna Mae Dublin of Mayfield
Charles Warren Headley of Hartsville
Lucy Hooper Grillo of Lexington
Patrick Michael Foley of Charleston, S.C.
Charles M. Flora of Versailles
David Cotton of Elkton
Albert C. Cole of Elkton
Christopher Alan Champion of Mayfield
John Eugene Campbell of Lawrenceburg
Dewey Campbell of Stanton
Cordis A. Brown of Stanton
Sherri Lynne Brooks of Walton
Catherine A. Bendl of Louisville
Roger Dale Hancock of Hopkinsville
Elmer Hensley of Hyden
Dorine Liebengood of Berea
Frank Harscher III of Lexington
Robert Witt Johnson of Irvine
Paul Gordon Johnson of Winchester
Clarence William Jarvis of Central City
Lowell Dean Howard of Middlesboro
Margaret R. Newsome of Versailles
Timothy Kyle Merritt of Louisville
Ronald Wayne McKenney of Georgetown
James Allen Baker of Frenchburg
John Lesler Barnes II of Jeffersonville
Angela Dawn Curtis of Wickliffe
Desmon Keith Dalton of Somerset
Sammy Goble Doles of Eddyville
Georgene Duke of Louisville
Fred Ira Dunn of Pineville
Michelle Joy Edrington of Louisville
Anne E. Euin of Goshen
Harry Wallace Garland Jr. of Hope Hull, Ala.
Eric Dean Gribbins of Campbellsville
Dale Thomas Hargrove of Hopkinsville
Anthony Charles Call of Bardstown
Billy Ray Burns of London
Craig Daniel Burgie of Benton
Sherri Ann Proffitt of Hestand
William Keith Patterson of Windsor
Leroy Lunsford Jr. of Stanford
Eric Lynn Wells of Nortonsville
John E. Steffey of Glasgow
Alexander Felkel Shuler of Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Jack Shepherd of Printer
James Richard Scott of Morehead
Sheila Y. Rucker of Louisville
Sammie Edward Adams of Tompkinsville
Charles G. Riley Jr. of East Bernstadt
Jesse Raymond Jones of Magnolia
Thomas Edward Perry of Lincoln, Ill.
Martin Daniel Perrea of Parkville, Missouri
Jack Shepherd of Printer
Teresa Susan Jones of Magnolia
Edward Alan King of Pine Knot
Darryl Wayne Geis of Lexington
Bryan Scott Denton of Gilbertsville
Hyram Mitchell Page of Tompkinsville
George Moorman of Lexington
Larry J. Pitcock of Tompkinsville
Edward N. Booze of Louisville
Richard Leroy Woodyard of Fort Thomas
John D. Wolf of Versailles
Marvin Hal Webb of Rineyville
Shelia Bernerdette Thompson of Las Vegas, Nevada
Rickey Dell Thomas of Toldeo, Ohio
Douglas Patrick Healy of Nicholasville
Kenneth Donelson of Murray
Eddie Wayne Todd of Mt. Vernon
Timothy A. Conley of Elk Fork
Alan Powell of Louisville
Marion Ferris McClurg of Quincy
Phillip Maurice Bedford of Louisville
Leonard Hager of Berea
Wayne Roberts of Booneville
George E. Depew of London
Granted commutations were:
Burgiss Harrison Yonts of Greenville
Demon Brown of Hopkinsville
Jeffrey Devan Leonard of Louisville
Enter your number for a chance to win great prizes!
Message and data rates may apply