Dothan murderer to be released from prison through Medical Furlough Act

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A man convicted of murder will soon walk free, even though he’s only served a fraction of his prison sentence. It’s all because of a rarely used Alabama state law: The Medical Furlough Act.

The Medical Furlough Act is essentially a prison release application for inmates that are terminally ill. There’s a list of factors taken into consideration when these applications are reviewed, like the risk of violence and criminal history.

Billy Ray Marchman shot and killed his wife, Pamela Lynn Jones-Stewart, in 2004 in Dothan, Alabama. In 2005, Marchman began serving his life sentence.

Prison Mugshot of Billy Ray Marchman

CBS 42 spoke with Jones-Stewart’s daughter, who tells us this news came as a shock.

“I just get a letter in the mail saying the person that killed your mom just gets to come out of jail.”

Kristen Murkerson; daughter of Victim

Kristen Murkerson says she found out Marchman was being released far after the decision was made. She didn’t even know he applied for medical furlough. She later discovered a letter stating Marchman’s medical furlough application was approved. That letter was sent to the wrong address.

“I called to ask questions on how it would work if he did apply for it, and that’s when they told me he’s already approved for it.”

Kristen Murkerson; daughter of Victim

Senator Cam Ward says the legislation’s intent was to criminals from prison that are no threat to society.

“If the person was no longer a threat to anyone in society, why would you continue to spend tax dollars and take up prison space in an overcrowded system to keep that person there, when in fact they’ll never be a threat to anyone again.”

Sen. Cam Ward; (R) Alabaster

Ward says lawmakers are feeling the pressure of shrinking their prison populations. He says that doesn’t mean this law is flawless. Approving medical furlough is decided by one man alone–the Alabama Prison Commissioner.

“Oh I’m sure, I could see what could be misused if just one person is in charge, again you have to look at it on a case by case basis…”

Sen. Cam Ward; (R) Alabaster

Murkerson says she cannot believe our lawmakers leave this decision to one person.

“With the medical furlough act, how can one person be responsible for that decision? No one person should have that much power to approve his release.”

Kristen Murkerson; daughter of Victim
Pamela Jones-Stewart, Kristen Murkerson, Jones-Stewart’s Sister Elizabeth Tate

Murkerson says she is sharing her story because a premeditated murderer should not be shown compassion when none was shown to her mother 15 years ago. Marchman could be released as soon as July 19.

Murkerson has set up an online petition to change the state’s laws surrounding furloughed release. To learn more, click here.

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