Saturday, July 25, 2009

Broken parole system

Families in wrongful death ready to take on sovereign immunity

July 25 marks the one-year anniversary of the day two little girls were run down by a speeding car while crossing the street near the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus. Several days ago, WAVE 3 first reported the parole officer of the man driving the speeding car had been added to a wrongful death lawsuit. Friday, the girls' families explained why.

It is a difficult anniversary for the families of 4-year-old Riley Lawrence and 5-year old Claudia Wadlington. They say the decision to add the parole officer and his supervisors in the wrongful death suit comes to get some answers. The parents believe key mistakes were made that allowed a convicted felon back on the streets and despite sovereign immunity that would protect the probation officer; they are willing to take the issue as far as they can.

As the parents sat in court behind Kenielle Finch, the man prosecutors say ran down Riley and Claudia as the crossed Floyd Street near the UofL Natatorium, it became the most difficult hearing yet coming one year after the girl's deaths.

"I think today, we're more emotional than we normally would be," said Sarah Lawrence, Riley's mother. "It's never easy and it's always very difficult and unsettling to be in the presence of someone who's caused us to lose so much."

The families and their civil attorney, John DeCamillis, explained why they added Allen George, Finch's parole officer, and two of his supervisors to their wrongful death lawsuit.

"If there's any case that I have ever in my 20 years come across that should motivate someone to find out what happened, it's this case," said DeCamillis.

Despite sovereign immunity, which makes local government immune from lawsuits like this, the suit claims the parole officers had a legal duty to supervise Finch, who had a history of trafficking drugs and running from police.

"He should have not been out the streets," DeCamillis said. "He had nine subsequent arrests after being paroled the last time and there was ample opportunity to keep him behind bars."

So how many arrests do you get before your parole is revoked exactly?

California has a plan to release 27,000 inmates to ease their budget problems and I sure hope Kentucky doesn't try the same thing.

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