The Michigan Department of Corrections, by law, posts the list commutation hearings that will be taking place in the coming weeks. Commutation is not a pardon: If granted, the inmate reports to a parole officer for four years after release. These cases range from murder and kidnapping to armed robbery. Most are very serious and often violent crimes. Members of the public have a right to attend these hearings and speak if they desire. These can be emotionally charged events and I’m always surprised more reporters don’t attend. Perhaps they are too busy handing out parental advice or giving tips on home decorating.
In one recent case, a man who had been incarcerated since he was 19 was released. He was 64. What kind of story do you think you could pull from that? Answer: A very good one in the hands of a graceful journalist.
Next week, the parole board will hear the case of Paul Allen Dye, a man convicted of both 1st and 2nd degree murder in 1990.
According to case files , the murders occurred in Wayne County:
Early in the morning of August 29, 1982, [Donna Bartels and Glenda Collins] were killed in the clubhouse of the Forbidden Wheels Motorcycle Club. They had each been shot through the head. Their bodies were dumped on the curb of a residential street and discovered there by early morning
Four club members were in the clubhouse at the time of the murders. Dye, Bruce Seidel, James Dawson, and Steve Stever all admitted to helping clean up the clubhouse after the killings. Seidel, the prosecution's chief witness, accused Dye of killing the women. Dye accused Seidel of being the killer.
Dawson and Stever, who had been in an upstairs apartment apparently asleep at the time of the killings, testified that Seidel walked upstairs, awakened them, and told them that Dye had just killed two women. Seidel, Dawson, and Stever further testified that after Seidel and Dye dumped the bodies, all four met in Stever's garage, where Dye admitted to the killings.
Dye has been locked up for 18 years and has zero sanctions, MDOC spokesman Russ Marlan told me. As with any commutation case, the state parole board has voted twice to hear his case for commutation after reviewing mental health reports and statements from the sentencing judge and prosecutor. So this hearing on April 9 is a big one.
But what is compelling about Paul Allen Dye’s case is its legal history. His appeal made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it may well be the first official opinion from the court with Justice John G. Roberts, and it sided with the inmate. In the process, it also bench-slapped the 6th Circuit Court for refusing to consider Dye's legal argument, which included the accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. The author of one sentencing blog, legal scholar Douglas Berman, notes: "So, when playing the "law nerd" version of Trivial Pursuit, remember that the question "Who prevailed in the first written decision of the Roberts Court?," should be answered "convicted murderer Paul Allen Dye.""
We know that this gets all legally intricate, and that’s not our mission here, but it is noteworthy that Dye is up for commutation. And this legal democracy holds hands with free markets, in our book.