HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell said Thursday he was likely to reduce the life sentences of three men convicted of murder following unanimous recommendations to that effect by the state Pardons Board.
The governor said at a news conference that he would decide after reviewing the cases of state prison inmates Keith O. Smith, William Fultz, and Tyrone Werts. The three were convicted of separate slayings in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s.
The Pardons Board made the recommendations that would clear the way for their eventual release on parole on Tuesday, the first such votes in more than six years. In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a 1997 amendment to the state constitution requiring that Pardons Board recommendations be unanimous for defendants serving life or sentenced to death.
The Pardons Board votes were all 4-0, with the fifth member, Attorney General and Gov-elect Tom Corbett, not participating. The clemency application by a fourth inmate, 63-year-old Fred Butler, was rejected, 4-0.
Rendell said none of the three men was the "actual killer," but all had served as accomplices, and some of the others convicted in those killings have been released.
"The inequities in these cases are startling," Rendell said, noting all have served lengthy terms. "Under those circumstances, I think I'd be inclined to sign the pardons."
If the governor does so, state law requires the men to spend at least a year in a prerelease center before getting out on parole.