13 INVESTIGATES: Pardons and Paroles - WVTM-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Pardons and Paroles

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Thomas Wallace was executed in 1990. Jerry Lee Jones was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole and Eddie Neal was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thomas Wallace was executed in 1990. Jerry Lee Jones was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole and Eddie Neal was sentenced to life in prison without parole

The three men you see here hold the keys to an Alabama inmate getting out of prison on parole. Three days a week they see on average about 90 cases a day, eight thousand a year.

Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles Member, Bobby Longshore said, "We deal with the most egregious acts that human beings commit on each other. Every day we hear cases that had the media elected to make a big deal out of it, it would have been a big deal."

One of those cases was the kidnapping and murder of Quenette Shehane in December 1976.

"I've tried to remember the little giggly silly Quenette, rather than what I know she suffered the last hours of her life," said Quenette's mother, Miriam Shehane.

Quenette, who had just finished her degree at Birmingham-Southern and was headed to Auburn for her masters in Education was spending time with her boyfriend just before Christmas. A quick run for salad dressing led to her kidnapping outside a neighborhood store and gas station and later, murder by three men.

"I can still see Quenette when I walked into the morgue, laying on that table, dirt and asphalt in her hands and knees," said former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber.

Barber prosecuted those responsible: Thomas Wallace, Eddie Neal and Jerry Lee Jones. Quenette's death continues to be an emotional case for him.

"I never met Quenette but I feel like she's one of my best friends. I know a lot about her," he said.

All three men were convicted. Wallace was executed in 1990. Eddie Neal was sentenced to life in prison without parole and Jerry Lee Jones was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

"I dread it. As I said, I can only describe it as just being a basket case," Shehane said.

What Shehane dreads is Jones' upcoming parole hearing which comes up every five years, but parole times vary for inmates based on their sentence.

"It's not easy, it brings it up, just like it happened yesterday that's how fresh it is and I'm glad that I'm notified," Shehane said.

A notification Shehane, her family and other victims benefit from, thanks to Shehane's group, Victims Of Crime and Leniency or VOCAL. They were instrumental in changing state law requiring registered notification about parole hearings.

Shehane said, "In early stages we did concentrate on legislation a lot. We concentrate now on support and telling crime victims what their rights are."

The group also sued the board, when it didn't follow its own rules. Shehane has been critical of the board in the past.

"They paroled a lot of people, that they, a lot of people they shouldn't and this parole board is very, they screen very carefully," Shehane said.

Longshore said, "I will not criticize, a former board member. I wasn't here."

What Longshore will say, this board takes its job seriously.

"We will hear it, inmates who have committed the most egregious acts are entitled to a parole hearing," Longhorn says. "That's the law."

Board members are appointed to six-year terms by the governor. Longshore and another member, Bill Wynne, Jr. are both former federal probation officers. A third, Cliff Walker, worked in the business community.

Longshore also says Alabama law is set up to empower victims and their families. Their testimony at a hearing weighs heavily.

"The legislature passed these laws to empower the victim community to have them here," Longhorn said. "They did not do that, I believe, to have somebody come in and see the person who raped, robbed or murdered their mother, released on parole."

By law the board does not have to explain why it has denied someone parole, only when it's granted. But when considering parole, the board looks at an inmate's entire case history which includes: the crime committed; the sentence imposed; prior record; prior terms on probation and parole that did not work out; and their behavior while in prison.

According to prison officials, Jones has had two infractions while in prison, one in 1985, another in 1995. But officials weren't specific what they were.

After fighting to keep the men convicted of killing her daughter behind bars, Shehane has only one hope.

"My expectations is denied, yes," Shehane said. 

Now 80, she'll continue fighting for the rest of her life.

According to Longshore, Alabama is not a presumptive parole state - that's where it's presumed, parole will happen at a certain time, and that's not the case here.  That three-member panel, solely decides if an inmate has earned parole based on the inmate's case history.

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