State Watch

Massachusetts governor commutes sentences of two convicted murderers

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced on Wednesday he is commuting the sentences of two convicted murderers, following a recommendation from the state’s Parole Board.

Baker commuted the sentences of Thomas Koonce and William Allen, both of whom were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. With Baker’s action, both men are now immediately eligible for parole. This is the first time Baker has commuted a life sentence since assuming office in 2015.

WBUR noted that these commutations are the first that have been issued by the Massachusetts governor’s office since 2014.

“To make these difficult decisions, I spent months carefully weighing the circumstances of the two terrible crimes, the actions of the two men since and the Parole Board’s recommendation for commutation,” Baker said in a release.

“I believe both men, having taken responsibility for their actions and paid their debt to the Commonwealth by serving sentences longer than most individuals found guilty of similar actions, deserve the right to seek parole from prison.”

In 1987, Koonce, 54, fatally shot a man in New Bedford and was found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in 1992. According to Baker’s office, Koonce has become a leader in helping other inmates benefit from prison programs and has established new programs, as well.

During his time in prison, Koonce graduated magna cum laude from Boston University’s prison education program.

Allen broke into a man’s home in Brockton, Mass., in 1994, intending to rob him. An accomplice ended up fatally stabbing the man and Allen was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997. Since being imprisoned, Allen has earned numerous vocational licenses and has worked as a companion for mentally ill patients at a local hospital, according to Baker’s office.

Baker’s decision must now be approved by the Governor’s Council. If approval is granted, Koonce and Allen would be placed on parole for life.

Tags Charlie Baker Criminal law Massachusetts

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