RALEIGH, N.C. — A cadre of murderers and rapists, several of whom victimized young girls, will be set free from North Carolina prisons this month after state courts agreed that a decades-old law defined life sentences as only 80 years long.
More inmates could be released in the coming months unless the state can figure out a legal recourse to keep them behind bars, officials said Thursday. Gov. Beverly Perdue called them "dangerous criminals" who have repeatedly been denied parole.
One of the 20 inmates set for release, Bobby Bowden, argued that a law adopted in 1974 defined life sentences as 80 years. The 60-year-old convicted murderer believed the statute, combined with good conduct credits, means his life sentence is complete.
The Court of Appeals sided with Bowden last year. North Carolina's Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the state earlier this month after a lawyer from the attorney general's office had argued that the 80 year figure was ambiguous.
A list of prisoners set for freedom describes a range of crimes: John Montgomery, 58, was sent to prison in 1973 for raping a 15-year-old girl while on escape from Guilford Correctional Center. Faye Brown, 56, was convicted on a first-degree murder charge for the 1975 killing of a state trooper during a bank robbery.