- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Convicted killer Judith Ann Neelley is suing in federal court to try to overturn a law that prevents her from seeking parole.

In a lawsuit filed in Montgomery, Neelley contends the law shouldn’t have been applied retroactively to her case and she should get parole consideration.

Neelley was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die for helping her husband kill 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican from Rome, Ga. The girl was sexually abused, shot and injected her with drain cleaner before pushing being pushed off a cliff in northeast Alabama in 1982.

Gov. Fob James commuted Neelley’s death sentence shortly before leaving office in 1999. That left her serving life and being eligible for parole.

The Legislature responded with a law saying a commutation results in a sentence of life without parole. It applied the law retroactively to 1999 to cover Neelley’s case.

Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips, who is representing Neelley, told the Montgomery Advertiser (https://on.mgmadv.com/1kK6bTE ) that laws can’t retroactively increase punishment, and he called the law “a deprivation of a basic democratic freedom.”

The prosecutor in the case, DeKalb County District Attorney Mike O’Dell, said the law did not change her basic life sentence. He also said James intended for Neelley to serve life without parole when he commuted the sentence.

Another of Neelley’s attorneys, Barry Ragsdale, said Neelley’s commutation was the first by an Alabama governor since 1962, and the law was clearly aimed at her.

If Neelley succeeds in her suit, she would still have to get the three-member state parole board to approve her release, McPhillips said.


Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com



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