Sunday, June 8, 2008

West Virginia: Clemency Revisited

In 1967, Eugene Blake was convicted for the murder of then 18-year-old Donna Jean Ball. Blake was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. But in 1976 Gov. Arch Moore (R) commuted Blake’s sentence to "life with mercy" and opened the door for the possibility of parole. Five rounds in front of the State Board of Probation and Parole were unsuccessful, and a sixth application (in 1979) was unanimously rejected.

According to the Wheeling News Register, "an extensive petition and letter writing campaign was waged by many prominent local citizens to persuade Moore to commute the sentence." The result was a three-page, single-spaced petition "with hundreds of signatures, dozens of letters were sent to Moore from Ohio and Marshall County residents, Catholic church priests and nuns, businessmen and others. McKenzie, who also served as a former Wheeling police chief and Ohio County sheriff." So, Moore granted clemency and, later, the murder was expunged from Blake's record. Now, the News Register reports"
As a result, on Oct. 17, 1984, 13-year-old Maryann Hope Helmbright was raped and shot to death in Wheeling—and if the Belmont County prosecutor proves his case, the March 19, 1982 murder of Mark Withers, 21, of Lansing, also will be attributed to Blake.
See full story here.

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