Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, on Wednesday granted clemency petitions to commute the life sentences of two men who were convicted of murder about three decades ago in separate cases, the Boston Globe reports.
Baker approved the requests from Thomas E. Koonce and William Allen after the state Advisory Board of Pardons recommended that Baker commute their first-degree murder sentences to second-degree murder, which would allow them to receive parole.
If Baker’s recommendations are approved by the Governor’s Council, both convicts would go on to receive hearings before the Parole Board, which previously issued unanimous recommendations to commute the two’s sentences.
In a statement, Baker said that he took several months to consider the "two terrible crimes, the actions of the two men since and the Parole Board’s recommendation for commutation."
Koonce, 54, received a life sentence without the possibility of parole in 1987 for killing a man from New Bedford, while Allen, 48, was convicted of murder for his participation in a fatal armed robbery of an alleged drug dealer in Brockton in 1994.
"I believe both men, having taken responsibility for their actions and paid their debt to the Commonwealth by serving sentences longer than most individuals found guilty of similar actions, deserve the right to seek parole from prison," Baker said.
"The authority given to me by the people of Massachusetts to commute and pardon individuals is one of the most sacred and important powers of this office. There are few things as important to me in this position as ensuring justice is served for the individuals impacted by a crime and my responsibility to ensure fair application of justice to all."
The Globe notes that several notable jurists in the state, including four retired justices from the state Supreme Judicial Court and U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, had pushed Baker to approve the clemency petitions.
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