The Massachusetts parole board reviewed plans to release William Allen from prison on Thursday, weeks after Governor Charlie Baker commuted his life sentence.
Baker commuted the first-degree murder sentences for Allen and Thomas Koonce in January, setting the stage for the two men to be released from prison.
For two hours, the parole board questioned Allen, 48, about how he would adjust to freedom after 25 years in prison. He was convicted in 1997 of an armed robbery that resulted in the 1994 murder of Purvis Bester in Brockton. Although Allen participated in the robbery, the man who fatally stabbed Bester pleaded guilty to murder charges in the second degree and was paroled over a decade ago.
“It’s a blessing to be here in front of you,” said Allen, who appeared in a shirt and tie, with chains around his ankles and waist. “A chance for redemption doesn’t come often in a lifetime. The only way I can hope to make amends to the Bester family is to live my life in a way that honors Mr. Bester’s.”
Bester’s family supports Allen’s release.
Attorneys Patty Dejuneas and Kristine McDonald appeared with Allen at the hearing. He was also represented by retired Supreme Court Judicial Justice Robert Cordy, who pointed out that Allen is unlikely to be convicted of first-degree murder today due to a change in the law brought about by the High Court.
The law now requires a jury to find an intent to kill for a first degree murder conviction. The change does not apply to pre-2017 cases, such as Allen’s.
Parole Board Chairwoman Gloriann Moroney asked Allen how he felt when he found out the man who stabbed Bester had been released while he was still serving a sentence. life imprisonment.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt,” Allen said. “But I can’t dwell on it or cling to it because then he has control over me.”
While incarcerated, Allen obtained professional licenses to be a barber, restaurant worker, and clerk. He also served as a Eucharistic pastor for the Catholic community and worked as a companion and assistant to seriously mentally ill patients at Bridgewater State Hospital.
Three supporters spoke on behalf of Allen on Thursday, describing his work with mentally ill prisoners and the leadership roles he held while incarcerated. All three told the board that they would continue to support Allen if he were released.
If he is granted parole, Allen said he would like to live with his father in Brockton. He also has a job offer at a local car dealership. Ultimately, he said, he wants to work with young people and serve as a “peer mentor for those recovering from trauma, mental illness and addiction.”
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz, whose office handled the case before Cruz was DA, told the council that Allen had “earned the right to return to the community” and that Allen could help her office reach out to at-risk youth.
“We strive to see a fair outcome for everyone,” Cruz said. “He will make a difference in our community.”
Allen’s switch case received a lot of attention. A petition with over 300 signatures was presented to the parole board supporting Allen.
And New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty and other players have rallied around Allen’s case. At the governor’s council hearing, McCourty said he shared Allen’s story with the team, after which coach Bill Belichick asked how he could help. The entire coaching staff sent a letter to Baker in support of Allen’s switch.
This is the last step in the leniency process. Allen first filed his petition for commutation in 2017. The Governor’s Council unanimously backed the petition last month, formally commuting Allen’s sentence to second-degree murder and making him eligible for parole. . If released, he will remain on parole for the rest of his life.
In announcing Allen’s commutation, as well as the commutation of Thomas Koonce’s life sentence, Baker said he “carefully weighed” the circumstances of their cases. These are the first commutations Baker has approved since taking office in 2015 and the first time the parole board has considered commuting the sentences of those convicted of first-degree murder since 1997.
“I believe that both men, having taken responsibility for their actions and paid their debt to the Commonwealth by serving longer sentences than most individuals convicted of similar acts, deserve the right to seek parole from prison “Baker said in a statement.
Koonce, 54, has been incarcerated for nearly 30 years after he fired a gun from a car window, hitting and killing Mark Santos in New Bedford in 1987. The parole board is considering his potential release after his appearance before the commission on March 24.