Begging Your Pardon

Fife Symington's free and Michael Hester's not. But thanks to the ex-governor's oversight, that may soon change.

Solicitor general Scott Bales says the state of Arizona will appeal Sedwick's ruling.

"It's important to note that the governor didn't want to commute [Hester's] sentence, which everyone agrees was his prerogative," he tells New Times. "The governor didn't have to do a thing to let the board know what he had decided on a given inmate unless he wanted to, which he did in this instance through an aide. What Governor Symington did was legal."

Bales points out that the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a Hester-type argument last November in a case involving inmate Kevin McDonald. The Phoenix man is serving a life sentence on an aggravated assault conviction, though the clemency board in 1995 unanimously recommended a reduction of his sentence to eight and a half years.

That ruling is being appealed on McDonald's behalf by attorneys with the Justice Project, a consortium of volunteer attorneys.

Mike Hester says he's eager to start a new life this December. That is, if the state of Arizona isn't able to keep him incarcerated until the appellate issues are decided. He's uncertain what his future on the outside might hold, though he says it surely will have something to do with the law.

"I am drug-free for eight years," he wrote a few weeks ago. "If you know anything about drug rehabilitation, then you know that the only freedom is getting away from all that caused your problems."

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