I was sad to read an email that came in last night from Andrea Ryken, one of the two fantastic student advocates who worked for Tom Henry’s release. To give you the story from her perspective, I’ll copy her words here:
“The en banc hearing did not go as well as we had hoped. Henry received the same two votes as last year, and he did at least receive a one-year set once again. However, the tone of the hearing was disappointing, to say the least. Eric Gregg, the Board member who had interviewed Henry in Menard, spoke about Henry with really positive language, and we were at first very optimistic. But then we were asked to leave so the Board could hear the protest letters from the victims’ families and, when we returned to the room, the tone had changed. It felt like all had gone cold.
“The Board allowed Rosie, Dick, and the two of us to say a few words. The Chairman was very short with us all, though, and Rosie in particular. We tried our best to clarify some points and emphasize that Henry has met every one of their supposed markers of an ideal parole candidate. And yet, some members could not get past the crime itself. One member described Henry as a Jekyll/Hyde character, and at this point Gregg seemed to back pedal and express worries about Henry that seemed at odds with how positively he described him from interview at first. Finally, Gregg recommended denying him parole, and he even hesitated about the set length, citing the difficulty it puts the victims’ families through with each attempt.
“We are sorry to report bad news. We stood with Rosie and Dick afterward, and some tears were definitely shed. It was a sad moment.
“We have both gained so much from this amazing experience. Our graduation is on May 16th, and we both agree this is one of the most important things we have had the privilege of doing in law school. It has been our absolute pleasure to get to know Henry, Rosie, Dick, and you through this process. We have memorialized the process in memos that we have passed on to our professor, and we have organized and re-named all of the electronic files for Henry’s petition in hopes that all future attempts are as smooth as possible. As our professor told us after the hearing when we called him, disappointed, it is absolutely worth it to keep trying because one never knows how the PRB will change with new members or how the situation will hit members differently, year to year.”
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