Legislature to hold hearings on parole of convicted killers

with Rupa Shenoy

Republican legislative leaders sent a letter to Gov. Dayton asking his administration for more information on the paroles of two convicted murderers. GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch wrote in the letter that they have concerns that Timothy Eling and John Scruggs were paroled. They characterized Correction Commissioner Tom Roy’s decision as “unprecedented.”

“Commissioner Roy has released two convicted killers who were sentenced to life for their heinous and egregious crimes. This includes Timothy Eling, who was serving a life sentence for the 1982 killing of Oakdale police officer Richard Walton, and John Scruggs, a Minneapolis gang leader who ordered the execution of a teenage girl believed to be a police informant.

We believe Commissioner Roy’s decisions to release convicted killers serving life sentences deserve further transparency and review. To that end, we have asked Senator Warren Limmer, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Tony Cornish, Chair of the House Public Safety Crime Prevention Committee, to hold legislative hearings on this matter.”

The Star Tribune first reported Eling’s parole. The paper says Eling must serve roughly four more years at the Stillwater prison for a separate 1996 sentence for drug smuggling while in prison. The paper said it’s also the fourth time in nine months that Roy has paroled a convicted murderer who was serving a life sentence.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Republican Caucus says no hearing date has been set.

Gov. Dayton’s spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said Commissioner Roy will appear at the hearing. She also said the law is clear on the issue.

“Personally, Gov. Dayton believes that anyone who kills a law enforcement officer should serve life in prison,” Tinucci said. “However that was not the law when Mr. Eling was sentenced. The Legislature in their wisdom left that decision to grant parole or not to the commissioner, who is a career professional, not for the politicians to decide.”

Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, says commissioner Roy should have been guided by the 1993 law.

“It obviously was the will of the state legislature to create in Minnesota a very harsh penalty. They wanted people convicted of murdering cops to serve the rest of their lives in prison,” Flaherty said.

As for John Scruggs, convicted of ordering the murder of a possible police informant, records obtained under the Data Practices law show former Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian placed Scruggs on a path to parole.

An email from a department of corrections spokesperson said Roy saw no reason to reverse Fabian’s decision.

Here’s the letter from Koch and Zellers:

20111027KochZellerstoDayton

Here’s the Scruggs parole letter:

02 26 10 Scruggs Ltr

Here’s the Eling parole letter:

09-19-11 Eling ltr

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