SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his role in the 2011 death of a Kingsport man, but just 18 months into his 25-year agreed-upon prison sentence Dominique Morrison is asking the governor to let him out sooner.
Morrison’s request is prompting some to push the state to create minimum requirements for criminals before they can file executive clemency petitions.
Morrison, along with another man, struck a plea deal with prosecutors last year in connection to the death of Jarrett Hughes. They killed Hughes during a robbery on Dale Street.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole says the board is processing Morrison’s application for executive clemency, specifically his request for a lesser sentence (commutation). After the application is processed the Board of Parole will vote to grant or not grant a formal clemency hearing. If a hearing is granted, board members will hold the hearing and then send a non-binding recommendation on to the governor for his review.
Board of Parole Communications Director Melissa McDonald says Gov. Bill Haslam has not granted a single petition for clemency during his time in office.
Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Lesley Tiller doesn’t think there’s any way the governor will let Morrison out early, but she says that’s not the point.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Tiller said. “I don’t think somebody who willingly agrees to serve 25 years in prison should have any mechanism to get out after less than two years. I think it’s ridiculous and I think it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of time for all these state employees to have to spend their time responding to this baseless petition.”
Tiller says she spent hours putting together a letter of opposition.
“I would like to see it changed where there’s some minimal threshold,” she said about the clemency process. “It appears that anyone who fills out this application for clemency gets it reviewed no matter how baseless it is or how little they’ve been in prison.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says if district attorneys across the state can come up with legislation that would require some criminals to serve a set period of time before they can ask for clemency he’d support it.
“Honestly, I thought there was a time limit,” he said. “It does seem ridiculous…We know they’re going to be denied. Why put the family through this? Why put everybody else through this? I’ll be more than happy to work with our local DA here and the DAs in the area.”
The prosecuting attorney says the victim’s mother was re-victimized through this process. After all, Hughes’ mother also wrote a letter of opposition. She says it took her a full day.
“It was a slap in the face,” Charlotte Erwin said. “The judge asked him plainly, ‘Do you clearly understand this is 25 at 100%?’ He said, ‘Yes’. 25 at a hundred is 25 at a hundred.”
- CLICK HERE TO READ: Dominique Morrison’s letter asking for clemency(.pdf)
As part of Morrison’s letter, written in prison, he said, “I made a bad mistake and I accept full responsibly for my actions. Nevertheless, I was there and could have prevented (the murder) but I chose not too (sic), and for that I’m sorry.”
He went on to say he’s since completed two self-improvement classes and is now a changed man. He said he’s also working on becoming a better father.
“Since my incarceration, I’m confident to say I learned a lot that will help me be successful in life when I’m released,” Morrison said. “I have faith and I believe that all will be well. I know this is a difficult question to ask, ‘Will you have faith and believe in me also(?)’ I’m asking for a chance to show my family, my community, and the world as a whole that everybody can change and make a difference. My goal is to keep young men from going through what I have been through.”
Erwin believes Morrison should serve every day of his 25-year prison sentence.
“He can still visit all of his family, but when I go visit Jarrett I have to look at him down on the ground,” she said. “I know God don’t make no mistakes. I want to thank my family, church family, friends and community for being there for me.”
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole says the number of executive clemency requests are actually down from 366 two years ago to just 137 last fiscal year.
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