New York Daily News

August 31, 2010



Throw away the key: Cop killer trying to play the parole system must stay in prison

Cop killer Samuel Hamilton is locked up in Fishkill state prison in upstate Beacon. And that's where he should stay. For the rest of his life.

The statute book says Hamilton, serving an 18-to-life stretch, is eligible for parole consideration. He was supposed to make his case two weeks ago, but he suddenly asked for an adjournment - apparently because he didn't like his chances with the two commissioners who would have heard his plea.

A third has been added to the panel, one sure to be to Hamilton's liking. Mary Ross, who is both a Catholic nun and a former Legal Aid lawyer, has been added to the panel. Dubbed Release 'em Ross in these quarters, she is quite frank about her attitude toward imprisonment.

"The only high points of the criminal justice system are the defense attorneys who work in it. Otherwise, it is punitive and not rehabilitative," she told a website devoted to her order, the Congregation of St. Joseph.

"Society does not believe that people change and wants to keep people in prison for as long as they can. (An aside - if I lose my new job in six months, it's probably because I voted to let too many people out.)"

If only.

In 2009, Ross was on a parole panel that voted to cut loose a drug dealer who had sprayed a bodega with semiautomatic gunfire in 1990, killing Bronx Assistant District Attorney Sean Healy. Wiser heads overruled the misguided decision.

Now, Ross will apply her thinking to Hamilton, convicted of both the fatal shooting of off-duty Housing Police Officer James Carragher in 1982 and the gunpoint robbery of an elderly woman on the same night.

Carragher had served in the Navy before he joined what was at the time a separate police force. He had 16 years on the job and was on his way home from work, wearing civilian clothes, shortly after midnight.

He was outside the building where he lived with his wife, Antoinette, and two of their four daughters in the Glenwood Houses in Brooklyn when he was accosted. A gun battle ensued, and Carragher was fatally hit.

Like most inmates, Hamilton represents himself as a reformed character who has earned two degrees and done much good work during the time of his incarceration.

He should continue to do good work, and he should continue to do it in prison. There is plenty of good work that needs doing behind bars.

He deserves exactly the amount of mercy that he and his accomplices showed to James Carragher. None.