Grandson of murder victims hopes for permanent hold on parole changes

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 10:40 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A policy change proposed by the Kentucky Parole Board is on hold after a judge issued a temporary restraining order, preventing dozens of convicted murderers from receiving new parole hearings.

The Kentucky Parole Board issued a directive on April 1 of this year that inmates currently serving life or life without parole for 25 years cannot be ordered to serve out their sentence at their first parole hearing.

They said this directive was issued after various legal issues were raised in a case challenging the board’s existing practice.

For Mark Morris and his family, the policy change came as a shock to them after they thought they would never have to think about one of the men convicted of killing his grandparents in 1985.

“When that ruling come out, I remember I saw the story break, and one of the pictures they showed was of him,” Morris said. “You start having flashbacks. You start remembering everything you went through. The trials, when you’re sitting there and all the questions that are asked, and having to relive over, over, and over of what my grandparents went through.”

Donald Bartley and two other men were convicted for Edwin and Bessie Morris’ deaths. The other two are on death row, while Bartley was denied parole in 2009. With the policy change, he would be eligible for another hearing before the end of 2021.

“How did no one know that this was going to happen?” Morris asked. “How did they make a change that effects so many people without any public knowledge, any public hearing?”

Morris says he’s been talking to other families who are faced with the same situation and are hoping to see the temporary restraining order become permanent.

“Every day I get up I think about it, every day I go to bed I think about it. It’s not like we’re going to forget who they were, and what they did. So why should the parole board and those who voted for this forget about us?”

If that restraining order hadn’t been issued, the first of the new hearings would have taken place as soon as next month.

According to the Kentucky Corrections offender search page, Bartley’s parole date is set for July 1.

There is a petition on asking for this policy change to be reversed.

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