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Jerry Lett, ailing, paroled Alabama veteran, ordered back to prison because of state mistake

A Houston County man is being ordered to be taken back into custody. (Mike Cason | [email protected]/TNS)

A Houston County man paroled in September is now being ordered to be taken back into custody after the state Board of Pardons and Paroles said Thursday it made a mistake when it paroled Jerry Lamar Lett.

But advocates said Lett, a military veteran who turns 53 on Friday, has been a model citizen and has been complying with the terms of his parole and called rescinding his parole a “miscarriage of justice.”

Lett, of Kinsey in Houston County, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of trafficking cocaine in 2018.

In a September parole hearing conducted via Zoom, the the pardons and paroles board made Lett a free man.

But a lawyer for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles told the board at Thursday’s hearing that a state law amended in 2019 meant that Lett should not have been eligible for parole until he served 10 years of his sentence.

Several witnesses, including parole officers, testified that Lett’s model behavior made him an ideal candidate for parole, while Lett’s lawyer, Allison Ganem, argued that Lett’s parole should stand because to reverse the decision would violate Lett’s rights to due process, according to the minutes entry of Thursday’s hearing.

The board ultimately sided with the bureau, maintaining that it made an error in granting Lett parole.

“Considering the testimony, evidence, and arguments offered by both parties, the board determines that it lacked jurisdiction to act to parole Mr. Lett,” the board wrote. “At this time, the board orders that Mr. Lett be taken into custody.”

The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, which has been advocating on Lett’s behalf, said Wednesday that it would be a “miscarriage of justice” if the board went through with revoking Lett’s parole.

The organization said Lett has been “in perfect compliance” with the terms of his parole, meeting with his parole officer once a week and checking in with a case manager at the Veterans Administration. The nonprofit also noted that Lett suffers from numerous health issues, including “advancing heart failure,” hypertension and diabetes.

“Both Sgt. Lett and his community have greatly benefited from his release,” the group said. “To reincarcerate a decorated veteran with serious health issues — who has been free and thriving in his community for over six months — would be a miscarriage of justice.”


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