The Michigan Department of Corrections this week disclosed another death of an inmate from the coronavirus but this case had a curious twist. William Garrison died weeks before his parole. What is most remarkable is the Garrison had the choice to leave prison in January with parole but elected the option to stay in prison until September to be released without parole. As a criminal defense attorney, I have rarely heard of an inmate electing the longer incarceration option. In this case, it likely cost him his life. Had he opted for parole, he would not have been exposed to the virus in prison.
Garrison served nearly 44 years of a life sentence for a murder during an armed robbery committed when he was 16 years old.Garrison and two others, ages 17 and 18, entered a home in Detroit only to have the occupant emerge from a bathroom with a gun. Garrison shot and killed him and also shot two other people.
He was given the automatic sentence in 1976. However, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose a mandatory life sentence for juveniles.
While in prison he taught himself to read and write and even studied law and became a type of jail house lawyer.
When the judge resentenced him in January to 40 to 90 years, he had already served 43 years and parole was approved. However, he surprisingly declined the parole because he did not want to be under the supervision of the correctional department. He felt that he would not be entirely free. The decision would cost him his life.
When the virus outbreak occurred, he changed his mind since he had had a lung removed as a baby because of tuberculosis. His parole was reconsidered in late March and approved. The prison asked for a waiver from the prosecutor of the 28 days for appeal. However, Garrison died in the meantime from the virus.