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Murder victim's daughter protests killer's possible parole | News

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Murder victim's daughter protests killer's possible parole
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SUITLAND, Md. (WUSA9) -- The man who stabbed 67-year old grandmother Geraldine Williams to death in 1990 could go free this fall after serving just 10 years in prison; a holdover from an old Maryland sentencing law that Williams' daughter is now fighting to change even further.

"I want help in getting this law overturned," said Linda Duncan in an interview Tuesday. "First degree murderers should not be offered probation and a chance to get out and start over again. I am for second chances, but not for that."

Michael Lamont Johnson was convicted of Williams' murder in 2007. It took some 15 years for police to link DNA found at the crime scene in Suitland to Johnson, and when they did he was already serving time for another crime in New Jersey. He entered an Alford plea in 2007, and we sentenced to 40 years to life for the crime of first degree murder.

Since the crime occurred in 1990, the sentencing rules of that time applied, meaning Johnson would be eligible for parole after serving just 25 percent of his sentence. With time-served included, that means he comes up for a parole hearing this year. Duncan got a letter about the hearing in January.

"I wasn't expecting it so soon because he's only been in prison now for about 10 years for my mother's situation," Duncan said.

Maryland increased the amount of time served necessary for parole to 50% of the sentence in 1994. Some 16 states (including Virginia) have abolished their parole boards altogether, or exempted certain crimes from parole eligibility. But the 1990 law applies here, and now Duncan and her family faces the prospect of their mother's killer going free at worst, or at best, repeated parole hearings every few years; reopening old wounds.

"There's no equity. There's no justice. It's almost like the victims, the family members of these victims have life sentences and offenders get out," said Russell Butler, the executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center. "There's a feeling from victims that the system just isn't fair."

Butler said it was "very unlikely" Johnson would be released after his first parole hearing, sometime this summer. But he said the trauma victims and survivors like Duncan face is very real.

"I had 25 years to kind of put this at rest, pick up my life and go on with it," Duncan explained. "And then boom it's just like it happened all over again."

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