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Washington Lifers Prevail in District Court

By John Midgley, Attorney At Law

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly has ruled in the Powell case that SHB 1457 is ex post facto as applied to Mr. Powell's first-degree murder sentence. The state has been directed to determine Mr. Powell's parole eligibility under the terms of the "old law," former RCB 9.95.115. The state has filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, so that court will review Judge Zilly's decision.

Importantly, in turning down one lifer's motion to intervene in Powell , Judge Zilly wrote that "the final decision in this case will be binding on all inmates similarly situated to petitioner Robert Patrick Powell." Therefore anyone who has completed (or nearly completed) his or her 20 year mandatory term (less good time) should ask the superintendent for a certification of meritorious conduct and a recommendation that the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board grant parole. Such a certificate and recommendation is, of course, necessary under the old law before the ISRB can consider parole. Anyone who does get a superintendent's certification should then ask the ISRB to consider paroling them.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has trouble getting a superintendent to decide whether to provide a certification. I would also like to hear from people who do get a certification, so we can track progress through the ISRB system. Please note that we can expect the Powell case to decide the legal issues for everyone, so we do not plan to litigate other cases at this point. However, we would like to be kept informed of what superintendents and the ISRB are doing, in case any additional legal actions is required. I will keep everyone informed of any developments in the case. I can be contacted at: Evergreen Legal Services, 101 Yesler Way, Suite 301, Seattle, WA 98104.

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Related legal case

Powell v. Ducharme