Rendell to commute life sentences for three

By Robert Moran

Gov. Rendell is scheduled Thursday to commute the life sentences of three men convicted of slayings during the 1970s in Philadelphia, his spokesman said Wednesday night.

Tyrone A. Werts, William Fultz, and Kevin O. Smith will be released from prison into halfway houses after Rendell signs the orders, said spokesman Gary Tuma.

Rendell, who is leaving office next month, previously commuted the life sentences of two men, Michael Anderson and George Orlowski.

The three new cases received 4-0 votes for recommendation by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons on Dec. 14. Attorney General Tom Corbett, a board member who is now governor-elect, was absent.

Tuma said Rendell decided in favor of clemency because none of the candidates did the actual killing, they already had served many years in prison, and they were hailed by advocates as changed men and ideal cases for clemency.

Once released, the men must maintain clean records or their commutations will be revoked, Tuma said.

Only six lifers have been recommended for commutation since a 1997 constitutional amendment went into effect that required a unanimous vote from the Pardons Board. Gov. Mark S. Schweiker approved one in 2002 as he was leaving office.

Werts, now 60, was convicted in 1975 for a murder of a man at a speakeasy. He was 24 when he served as the getaway driver in a robbery of a speakeasy that left William Bridgeman, 26, dead.

As an inmate at Graterford Prison, he has earned a bachelor’s degree and served as president of Lifers Inc., said William M. DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

“I truly believe this: If and when he does get out, he will be an asset to his community,” said DiMascio, who has known Werts for more than a dozen years.

In a 2004 interview with Philadelphia Weekly, Werts said: “Whether or not I ever receive my freedom, I’ll always continue to prove to society that I’m not the same person who committed that crime.”

However, members of Bridgeman’s family indicated to the Pardons Board that they opposed clemency.

DiMascio said that the power to grant clemency was put in the state constitution so that it would be used.

“To show mercy is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that the system works,” he said.

To read more go to:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20101230_Rendell_to_commute_life_sentences_for_three.html

Also, see “Why Are These Remarkable Men Still in Prison”

http://trustonekindness.com/remarkable-men/

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