JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Thursday, a man who is serving time for driving drunk and hitting and killing a former state lawmaker with his vehicle went up for parole.
Back in May of 2016, James Hamm was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crime.
But on Thursday, less than 15 months later, he asked to be released from prison early.
It was a very emotional hearing as family members of Mike Locke told parole board members why James Hamm did not deserve to be released from prison.
District Attorney Barry Staubus also testified.
“The reason he should be denied parole is one, because of the seriousness and egregiousness of the act. This is homicide,” Staubus said.
On June 23, 2014, Hamm hit and killed Mike Locke as he was placing campaign signs along Fort Henry Drive for now State Representative Bud Hulsey.
Hamm was sentenced to 14 years last May for vehicular homicide by intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident with a death.
But now, he is up for parole.
“The outrage in the community is over the fact that we shouldn’t even be here. He just got sentenced 15 months ago,” Hulsey said.
Thursday’s hearing was especially difficult for Locke’s family.
“This process just keeps opening the wound. There’s been no time to heal,” said Debbie Locke, Mike’s widow.
During the hearing, several of Locke’s family members, along with District Attorney Barry Staubus, State Representative Bud Hulsey and Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson were in attendance.
“It’s a real testament to Mr. Locke and what he stood for in the community,” Staubus said.
Debbie Locke gathered more than 5,500 signatures for a petition against Hamm’s parole. That’s more than 10% of the population of Kingsport.
“That is, in my opinion, the public speaking very loud about how they feel about parole and drunk driving and stricter laws,” Debbie Locke said.
During the hearing, parole board member, Gay Gregson declined Hamm’s parole for two years.
But three more votes are needed, which could take up to 10 days.
For the Locke family, they said it will feel much longer.
“An eternity. And then the process starts all over again,” Debbie Locke said.
If Hamm does not receive parole, the board will decide when the next hearing will be.
It will take four concurring votes to reach a final decision.
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