One of the most prolific serial killers in American history has been denied a possible prison release, petitioned for in defense of his well-being.
Gary Ridgway, dubbed the “The Green River Killer” after his initial victims were found in the Green River, was one of about 12,000 inmates who could have been eligible for release if a motion was passed, MyNorthwest reports. A lawsuit — filed in late March by Columbia Legal Services on behalf of five inmates — pleaded with the state to release the inmates, claiming that the Department of Corrections was unable to provide safe conditions amid the global pandemic.
Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told Oxygen.com earlier this month that prisons and jails nationwide are ripe for the spread of the virus. Outbreaks and tragic deaths have since been reported in prisons and jails across the nation.
“We can all hold out in our homes. We can decide who we allow into our homes. People in prison do not have that option,” Nicholas Straley — a lawyer representing the inmates — said, local station Q13Fox reports.
The motion to release Washington inmates was denied in a tight 5-4 ruling made Thursday. If it was passed, two thirds of the state’s inmates could have been released, KIRO Radio reported before the ruling. Anyone over 50 years old could have been applicable. Ridgway, who is now 71, would have fit into this group.
Additionally, anyone with an underlying health condition or anyone with 18 months or less left on their sentence would have also been applicable.
Ridgway was convicted in 2003 of murdering 49 women in Washington State in the early 1980s. While not proven, he has claimed he killed as many as 80 women. Before the recent confessions of Samuel Little, who has confessed to nearly 100 killings, he was thought to be America’s most prolific murderer.
Thursday’s ruling was denied after the Attorney General’s office and victims expressed both outrage and concern over the lawsuit, MyNorthwest reports. In addition to Ridgway’s possible release, there was fear that Isaac Zamora — who killed six people in a 2008 shooting spree — would also have been released.
"The impact of COVID-19 is devastating. But to think that the person who killed the father of my children could go free because of it is something that never, ever crossed my mind,” JoAnn Kennedy — whose ex-husband was killed by Zamora — wrote in a victim impact statement, the Skagit Valley Herald reports. Her statement was submitted to the court before the ruling was made.
Petitioners filing the case argued against safety concerns regarding dangerous inmates, claiming that the state would have been able to use its own discretion to avoid releasing threats to the public.
The court ultimately decided that there was no proof that appropriate measures weren’t being taken by state prisons in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ruling. The state previously released inmates who were due to be released in June.
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