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Cox granted compassionate release, one month after commutation

Michael Cox participates in his commutation hearing from MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution on Nov. 19.
Michael Cox participates in his commutation hearing from MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution on Nov. 19.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Michael Cox compassionate parole Wednesday morning, creating a path to release for the first person granted a commutation in two years.

“We are very grateful that the parole board has at long last done the right thing and given Mr. Cox the opportunity to recover and improve his health, for the first time in 30 years, back at home,” said Alex Taubes, Cox’s attorney.

Cox has spent three decades in prison for a string of violent crimes he committed in 1991, including two murders, aiding and abetting manslaughter, and second-degree assault with a firearm.

Board memberscommuted 30 years off Cox’s 75-year sentence at a hearing on Nov. 19. The move made him eligible for compassionate parole, a narrow form of release only available to prisoners who have served more than half of their sentence.

Cox’s medical conditions were detailed extensively in his commutation application. The 49-year-old has chronic renal failure, anemia, diabetes and a low red blood cell count. He also suffers from gout and is on dialysis.

Based upon medical evidence submitted to the board, said Carleton Giles, chair of the pardons board, “Mr. Cox is indeed so physically debilitated, incapacitated or infirm as a result of his advanced condition, that is not terminal, that he is physically incapable of presenting danger to society.”

Cox will be subjected to the standard terms of parole, meaning he will report to a parole officer and not leave the state without prior written consent. In addition, he is not to have contact with the co-defendants of his case or the victims of his crimes, and will receive a mental health evaluation from Department of Correction discharge planners before he is released.

It is not clear when Cox will get out of prison. His new residence will need to be deemed suitable and his discharge coordinated by prison officials.

“In my experience it still takes a couple days to get out when you get granted parole,” said Taubes.

There were no statements made by victims during Wednesday’s three-minute hearing. An official noted during Cox’s commutation hearing that one of the victims affected by Cox’s crimes had been in favor of shortening his sentence.

Cox is the first person for whom the board has granted a commutation since the board revised its policy, but he will likely not be the last. The board advanced 11 men to a final hearing at a pre-screening on Nov. 10.Each of them was age 25 or younger at the time of their offense. Most are otherwise ineligible for parole because they were convicted of murder.

Taubes is representing several of the men who will receive commutation hearings next month. He said Cox’s case is indicative of the need for an avenue of release from prison for people who might otherwise suffer and die behind bars, decades after committing a crime.

“It’s a great relief that he won’t have to suffer any further, or possibly have to die in prison,” Taubes said. “But to me it’s also a reminder of the many, many other people like Michael who deserve a second chance.”

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