Inmates expecting early release may go free decades later
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two longtime Louisiana inmates who expected to serve 10 years and six months behind bars but remain incarcerated decades later may soon go free under deals with New Orleans’ prosecutors.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ office filed “post-conviction plea agreements” for Louis Mitchell and Leroy Grippen on Friday, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported.
The new deals call for them to be resentenced to time they have already served. A judge is expected to consider them on Oct. 5.
Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated rape in the 1960s to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to two life terms. Grippen entered guilty pleas to armed robbery and aggravated rape and also received a life sentence.
At the time, state law laid out a process for Louisiana prisoners with life sentences to apply for a commutation after 10½ years, and legal experts say most got out under those rules. But then state lawmakers tightened the requirements.
In 1979, Louisiana dispensed with parole altogether for life prisoners.
“It’s one thing to go to prison; it’s another thing to go without understanding the terms,” said Jane Hogan, an attorney for Mitchell and Grippen, who are now in their 70s. “To have the goalpost shifted and shifted and the door slammed on these men is a travesty of justice.”
The two men are among roughly 60 Louisiana prisoners who expected a chance to get out after 10 years and six months but now remain incarcerated, according to the The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.
They range in age from 66 to 86. Most were convicted of murder and the rest of rape. More than 50 of them are Black.
Advocates with the Louisiana Parole Project say two other men in the group are working on similar deals with Williams’ office.