To the editor:
In the wake of the senseless murders committed Dec. 22, 1990, the Board of Pardons has been criticized for the release of and later failure to violate parolees Von Lester Taylor and Edward Deli who have been charged with those murders.The Board of Pardons is an entirely separate entity from the Department of Corrections, and at times in the past, I have been an outspoken critic of the board. That criticism ended, however, after Pete Haun was named to chair the board and Mike Sibbett and other board members were added.
The irony of the criticism of the current board is that there has never been a more pro-public-safety Board of Pardons, a very tough board that has at times been criticized by the press as being too tough on offenders.
It is true that Department of Corrections parole agents asked to have Taylor violated and returned to prison and provided information that they hoped would be adequate for that purpose. The board, however, can only "convict" on the parole violation if the "preponderance of evidence" standard of proof is met.
Hindsight makes judgment of the board decision easy; unfortunately, the board must make its decisions without benefit of hindsight, and based on evidence/testimony that may not rise to the required legal standard.
As long as the citizens of Utah choose to maintain probation and parole there will be thousands of men and women conditionally released for community supervision - a significant number of whom have the potential for serious violence.
What occurred was a horrible tragedy, and those who committed the murders should pay the full penalties allowed by law. I wish I could say it will be the last time a parolee or probationer will kill, rape or commit other violent criminal acts. No such guarantee is reasonable.
The Department of Corrections will continue its often-maligned aggressive supervision of offenders, the Board of Pardons will continue to struggle with the tough choices they must make in deciding who will be housed in Utah's few available prison cells.
Providing additional prison beds, staff and programs, and probation and parole officers and programs costs money - a lot of money. The public must decide through its elected representatives how much it wants the protection and how much protection it wants and can afford.
Gary W. DeLand
Utah Department of Corrections