Louisiana Inmates Who Were Promised a Chance at Parole May Be Released
“When these folks went to prison, Lyndon B. Johnson was president and no man had walked on the moon,” he said. “Lo and behold, everything changes while they’re behind prison doors.”
Next week, a criminal district court judge in New Orleans will review the post-conviction plea agreements for Louis Mitchell and Leroy Grippen, two of Louisiana’s longest-serving inmates. If the judge approves them, both men could be released soon thereafter.
“If they would have known that they would have been in prison for the rest of their life, I don’t think any of these people would have pled guilty,” Jane Hogan, a lawyer for Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Grippen, said in an interview on Wednesday.
The post-conviction plea agreements were reported earlier by Nola.com, which also detailed that Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, a Democrat, had separately granted clemency last month to the state’s longest-serving female inmate. The woman, Gloria Williams, 76, convicted of murder in 1971, is considered a 10-6 lifer. Ms. Williams, who is Black, still faces a parole hearing in December.
In an email on Thursday, a spokeswoman for Mr. Edwards confirmed that the governor had granted Ms. Williams clemency and said that a parole panel would take up her application.
Mr. Mitchell, now 74, was 19 years old when he was arrested on two counts of aggravated rape in 1966 — the women were white, according to Ms. Hogan. At the time, a person convicted of rape could receive the death penalty, a punishment later outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Mitchell has served 55 years in prison.
When faced with “death by the electric chair and being out within 10 and a half years, he chose the lesser of two evils,” Ms. Hogan said.