New York Daily News

November 26, 2010



EditorialsCop killers must not be permitted to try to shop for sympathetic parole commissioners

Absent the death penalty, cop killers should never leave prison except in body bags. And they should have nothing to say about what happens to them once the prison gate swings shut.

But that's not how New York law is written, so they not only escape capital punishment but can be paroled to walk the Earth and breathe the air they have denied to their victims.

That's bad, but it would be an abomination to let cop killers game the parole system to increase their chances of freedom.

Release hearings are conducted by two- or three-member panels of Parole Board members who are assigned at random. Two must agree to grant or deny parole. If a two-member panel can't agree, the case is reassigned.

What inmates know - or think they know - is that some Parole Board members are hard-liners and other are more inclined to spring prisoners.

They have taken to requesting adjournments if they think they face a tough panel and hope to get a softer one in the near future.

Such was the case of Samuel Hamilton, imprisoned for the fatal shooting of off-duty Housing Police officer and father of four James Carragher in 1982 and the gunpoint robbery of an elderly woman on the same night.

He requested an adjournment in August and must have thought he scored big when his panel took on Catholic nun and former Legal Aid lawyer Mary (Release 'em) Ross. In the ensuing furor, Ross removed herself from the case. Hamilton remains behind bars.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has now found three additional cases in which convicted cop killers played the adjournment game.

They were Rodney Bailey, who murdered Officer Robert Bilodeau in Harlem in 1980; Steven Chirse, who killed off-duty Officer Angelo Brown of the 84th Precinct in a 1984 robbery, and Lawrence Harris, who disarmed Transit Officer Seraphin Calabrese in a wild 1980 struggle at the Columbus Circle station and shot him to death.

While none managed to get parole, PBA President Patrick Lynch had complained to Division of Parole chief Andrea Evans about "rampant parole commissioner shopping."

He asked Evans to require inmates to file adjournment requests in advance of hearings and to be present to make the request on the record at the originally scheduled hearing. Good ideas, but Evans should go even further.

There should be no adjournments absent compelling justification. And inmates should face the same panel each time, even with adjournments.

The Parole Division insists adjournments are not lightly granted and denies that commissioner shopping is "rampant." Really? Four cop killers have pulled the trick, and that is four too many.