The Boston Globe published a front page story yesterday about Arnie King, a member of the Growing Together group at Bay State prison. This message summarizes the article, followed by my comment.
In 1971, when Arnie was 18, high on drugs and alcohol, he murdered a complete stranger, 26 year-old John Labanara.
Now, after 36 years, King is asking for a
second chance. He is the first inmate whose plea to be set free has
made it to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick, and his attempt has met
with the unanimous approval of the state Pardons Board. King's
supporters include the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus, academics,
ministers, and community leaders.
The victim's family, the Police Commissioner, and
District Attorney oppose King's release. "He
snuffed out a life that was full of promise and hope for no reason whatsoever,"
said Stephen Bowen, a close friend of the
victim. "For all those people who have sympathetic ears to Arnold King, let them
have one of their children killed and call me and tell me they forgive."
King, whose five prior commutation requests were denied, said he is sorry for killing
Labanara. "I was young, on drugs and alcohol, it was more that I was out of
control," said King, a high school dropout who was raised in Portsmouth, N.H.,
and started drinking and doing drugs by the time he was 13. King said he had
difficulty adjusting to prison initially, but changed after getting educated,
joining self-help groups, and founding programs that involve counseling high
school students and other inmates.
"What I want people to understand is there is a possibility for
change," King said. "I want to portray myself not as a teenage killer,
but as a person who has done a lot of work and tried to make myself a
better person. I think I have done that, and other people think I've
Commutations and pardons are politically risky, and politicians over
the last 20 years have been generally unwilling to grant any leniency
for inmates. Patrick has cautiously approached criminal justice issues, emphasizing
his belief in rehabilitation, while not wanting to appear soft on
"I can't believe he's been
rehabilitated one bit," said Bowen, Labanara's friend. "He's just a conman who
is . . . trying to get out on the street."