Berrien County judge overturns parole decision

The State of Michigan has bad financial problems—but is it making bad cost cutting decisions?

That’s arguably the case with the prison system, where a lack of money is creating a lack of trust.

“We now have a judge that sees what we saw,” said Berrien County Deputy Prosecutor Michael Sepic.

In the past, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office has always trusted the Michigan Parole Board to do the right thing when releasing prisoners. That trust has been shattered by the budget crisis.

“Well, I think the bigger picture is the D.O.C. is desperate to cut people out of prison,” said Sepic.

Sepic recently took the parole board to court in Berrien County to challenge a decision made last October regarding the release of inmate Steve Sanders.

Two days after Christmas in 1992, a Coloma man died outside his home after being stabbed four times with a butcher knife.

The blood soaked crime scene marked the start of Steve Sander’s time in prison.

Although Sanders was convicted of second-degree murder, he received a second chance in 2003, when he was released on parole.

“He had some curfew violations, he had some alcohol violations while on parole, he was charged with domestic violence,” said Sepic.

Sanders was still on parole in 2006 when he pleaded guilty to a charge of home invasion in Van Buren County.

As Sepic recalls, “Sanders came flying through her (the victim’s) window, bleeding all over her home, vomiting all over here home, she was hiding in the closet, he told the police afterwards that people were chasing him with needles.”

The idea that Sanders is somehow ready for a third chance at life beyond bars is one that the parole board endorsed in October of 2009.

“You have to scratch your head and wonder how are they living with themselves, letting some of these people out,” said Sepic.

This week, the Berrien County Circuit Court gave credibility to the prosecutor’s theory. A judge ruled that the parole board abused its discretion when the board approved Sander’s release.

“It’s got to be such an egregious error that it really isn’t reasonable, that the choice in this case that the parole board took is not even a reasonable decision for them to have made. In other words, reasonable minds can’t even differ on that,” said Sepic.

As a result, Sanders remains in prison for now. His maximum sentence runs through 2015, although he is still free to request parole in the future.

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