Tennessee governor grants executive clemency to 4

Gov. Bill Haslam (WSMV)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted executive clemency to 11 people on Thursday. However, the much-debated case of Cyntoia Brown was not included.

“I am pleased to grant these acts of clemency,” Haslam said in a news release. “These individuals have made positive contributions to their communities and deserve pardons, or are individuals who will receive another chance to become contributing members of society by virtue of their commutations.”

Pardons were issued to the following individuals:

  • Jack Farris Purkey, of Hawkins County, for his 1983 convictions for embezzlement and failure to receipt. Since his convictions, Purkey obtained a law degree and master of library science degree and subsequently worked as a librarian for Kennesaw State University and the Union County Board of Education. Purkey has been commended by many community leaders for his contributions to the community. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Purkey.
  • Amir Paydar, of Florida, for his 2002 convictions for DUI and minor in possession and transporting beer in Shelby County while he was an 18-year-old college student. Paydar is now a board-certified radiologist, after having graduated with highest honors from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and completing a neuroradiology fellowship at New York University. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Paydar.
  • Willie Stewart, Jr., of Arizona, for his 2004 conviction for felony possession of cocaine under 0.5 grams in Rutherford County. Stewart has been employed for a number of years by the City of Phoenix as an operations and maintenance technician in its water department, having earned an associate degree and other certifications in applied science. He also serves as a minister at a Phoenix-area Christian center. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Stewart.
  • Michael Martin Lacey, of Florida, for his 1996 conviction for possession of a Schedule I controlled substance with intent to deliver in Rutherford County. Lacey has been employed in Florida in the IT sector for approximately 20 years, where he has excelled and received numerous technical certifications.  Currently, he serves as the IT manager for a corporation in Tampa.
  • Phyllis Cross, of Nashville, for her 1998 convictions for forgery and 2003 conviction for criminal impersonation in Davidson County. Cross has obtained associate and bachelor degrees in psychology and now works with others to overcome substance abuse issues and serves as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist through the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
  • Jeffrey Hall Connell, of Knoxville, for his 1989 convictions for DUI and aggravated assault and separate 1989 convictions for marijuana possession and public drunkenness in Knox County. Connell, a Vietnam veteran, has been employed in maintenance and handyman roles in Knoxville for many years and is active in his church. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Connell.
  • Richard Knott, of Oklahoma, for his 1983 convictions for sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Knox County. Knott is a veteran, currently works as a shop superintendent for a steel company after working in the metal fabrication industry for decades, is active in his church, and is involved with an organization that supports child abuse victims. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a pardon in favor of Knott.

Commutations were issued to the following individuals:

  • Janet Edmond Kostyal, of South Carolina, received a commutation ending her parole supervision, which has been ongoing since 1985, when her sentence of life imprisonment for a 1974 murder in Hamilton County was commuted to parole supervision by Gov. Lamar Alexander. Kostyal has complied with all conditions of her parole supervision and led a positive life during the last three decades. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Kostyal.
  • Nicky J. Randolph, of Missouri, received a commutation ending his parole supervision, which has been ongoing since 2000, when his sentence of life imprisonment for a 1985 murder as a juvenile in Roane County was commuted to parole supervision by Gov. Don Sundquist. Randolph now owns an IT business and nonprofit ministry. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Randolph.
  • Marvin Kitchen received a commutation to restore eligibility for parole consideration by the Board of Parole for his 1973 life imprisonment sentence resulting from his convictions of armed robbery in Knox County, as his sentence effectively became life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1993 following additional convictions. In recent years, Kitchen has made progress in terms of rehabilitation. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Kitchen.
  • Keith Jackson received a commutation reducing the mandatory minimum sentence he has to serve for possession of cocaine with intent to sell in a drug free zone in Davidson County from 25 years to 17 years, so that he is immediately eligible for parole consideration by the Board of Parole. This offense occurred approximately 940 feet from a school and had no connection with the school but nevertheless took place within the statutory 1,000-foot-threshold, resulting in an enhanced sentence of 36 years of incarceration. Jackson has a record of good conduct and self-improvement in prison. The Tennessee Board of Parole issued a positive recommendation for granting a commutation in favor of Jackson.

None of these actions results in the immediate release of any person from prison, according to the news release.

Brown was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 for murdering a man she claims was prostituting her. Last week, Tennessee Supreme Court chose to make her serve the full life sentence.

Executive clemency is an act of mercy or leniency by the governor after a criminal conviction. A commutation is a reduction of the length or type of sentence imposed for a conviction, while a pardon is a statement of forgiveness that may assist with restoration of rights or expungement of a criminal record by a judge or overcoming the collateral consequences of a conviction with respect to obtaining housing and employment.

Haslam has previously granted one commutation, eight pardons, and one exoneration. The governor continues to review and consider additional clemency requests.

Black Lives Matter Nashville released a statement regarding the exclusion of Cyntoia Brown:

“Haslam’s exclusion of Cyntoia in today’s clemency announcement once again points to the disregard of Black women and girls by the carceral state. The time is now that Gov. Haslam listens to the voice of the people, of justice, and grants Cyntoia her clemency immediately. Cyntoia cannot wait. Black girls and women (cis and trans) cannot and will not wait. And we as Black Lives Matter Nashville will not wait.”

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