Sherry Stewart was ready to rent a limousine to whisk her son away from Utah State Prison after he was cleared of a jailhouse murder charge.
But her plans were foiled Thursday when the state Board of Pardons decided Dail Ray Stewart would remain in prison until June 23, when he will be paroled to a halfway house after serving eight years on a five-to-life term for the murder conviction.On Friday, Sherry Stewart and about 15 family members picketed the parole board offices.
"He already did eight years. That's enough parole," said Angel Stewart, the inmate's sister. Another person carried a placard that read, "Dail Ray didn't do the crime, so why make him do any more time?"
Parole board members say they have done everything possible to expedite Stewart's transition back into the community. But their first priority is guaranteeing he has a stable situation waiting for him outside prison.
"It's not our intention to punish Mr. Stewart any further," said parole board Chairman Pete Haun. "We wanted to provide a support system for him, so he's capable of making the adjustment and is not a further risk to the community."
Haun said Stewart, 31, is a model inmate who has upgraded his education and taken advantage of various treatment programs while in prison.
"But that doesn't always translate to adjustment in the community," he said.
Stewart has a criminal history that began at age 9. As a juvenile, he committed more than two dozen felonies, resulting in at least three referrals to the state industrial school, Haun said.
In 1980, Stewart went to prison for a burglary conviction. When he was paroled he committed four more burglaries and an escape. He returned to prison in 1982.
Stewart had been given a 1984 parole date when he and three other Utah State Prison inmates were charged with a murder.
Stewart served eight years on a 5-years-to-life murder conviction before the charge was dismissed because of new evidence indicating he was not the stabber.
Haun said Stewart may be able to avoid the halfway house if the board can come up with an alternate release plan.