Gov. Phil Batt on Friday granted clemency to condemned killer Donald Manuel Paradis in a 1980 murder Paradis has long claimed he did not commit.
"I do not think the death penalty should be imposed if there is any doubt about the guilt of the accused person," the governor said Friday evening. "In this case, there is some element of doubt."Batt, who says he supports the death penalty in appropriate cases, is the first governor to commute a death sentence. Prior to the late 1980s, the Commission on Pardons and Parole had that final authority.
A commission majority had sufficient doubt about the facts surrounding the death of 19-year-old Kimberly Ann Palmer that it recommended commuting the sentence of the former motorcycle gang member to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Paradis' attorneys said he laughed and then broke into tears when he was informed by telephone of Batt's decision moving him off of Death Row.
"He's talking to his mother, and he's going to call his daughter," attorney Bill Mauk said. "He told me that he has had all of his stuff in his cell packed and ready to move all week. He had a dream that told him he should pack his stuff."
Prison spokeswoman Ann Thomp-son said earlier Friday that Paradis would undergo a reclassification and be reassigned elsewhere in the prison. Thompson did not know exactly how long that would take.
Palmer's mother, who had made an impassioned plea for execution to both the commission and Batt, accepted the governor's decision.
"If life in prison without the possibility of parole means what it says, then we can live with that," Sherry Britz told KTVB-TV in Boise.
The governor expressed sympathy for Britz and Palmer's family, acknowledging that Britz would probably have had "better closure" had he allowed Paradis to be executed.
But, Batt added, "I hope that her anguish ends or is at least alleviated by the fact that there is no possibility for Mr. Paradis to be released from prison."
The governor's decision ended a week he has devoted almost exclusively to the clemency appeal. And after meeting with both sides and several of the parole board members, Batt said he began leaning toward clemency Thursday night.
Then Friday morning, Camille Tillinghast, the parole board member who engineered the 3-2 majority that recommended clemency, told the governor in a 40-minute meeting that there was just too much uncertainty to justify execution.