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Lifers Litigation Update

By John Midgely

Evergreen Legal Services

This is to update all interested persons on the progress of the Powell case in federal court. Recently, United States Magistrate Judge Sweigert made a recommendation to Judge Zilly that SHB 1457 be found ex post facto as to Mr. Powell. This is an important positive step, but it is very important to note that this is not by any means a final decision. The Magistrate Judge has only the power to make a recommendation, with the Judge making the actual decision. The State has the right to object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, and the actual decision is up to the judge. So, we will be waiting to see what the State does and what Judge Zilly's decision will be.

In addition, the case will very likely be taken to the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court no matter which way Judge Zilly rules. So, no matter which way the case goes in the federal district court, we are a ways yet from any kind of final resolution.

Because nothing has been finally decided, we do not expect the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to change any lifers' time at this point. Therefore, if you hear rumors that the Board is changing lifers' parole eligibility time back to 20 years minus good time, such rumors are very unlikely to be true. (Of course, if anyone can verify that the Board is doing this, please let me know.)

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Related legal case

Powell v. Ducharme