Northam administration responds to parole board controversy

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 8:11 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Controversy surrounding the Virginia Parole Board brought a response from the Northam administration Tuesday.

The Governor’s chief of staff defended a controversial parole board decision and said critics of the administration have been playing politics with the issue.

The Governor’s COVID briefing turned to the parole board controversy when a reporter raised the issue.

Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer defended the decision to parole Vincent Martin, who was serving a life sentence for the 1979 murder of a Richmond police officer.

“It was a brave and bold decision both by the parole board and the governor,” Mercer said, “and one that we stand by strongly.”

Mercer said a critical report from the Office of the State Inspector General was highly-biased. He described a meeting with representatives of the agency.

“We went into that meeting thinking there was bias and there was lack of objectivity,” Mercer said. “And we left that meeting knowing there was bias and a lack of objectivity in that report.”

Monday, an investigator with the office filed a whistleblower lawsuit.

We spoke with State Senator David Suetterlien (R-Roanoke Co.) before the governor’s briefing.

“The Parole Board has lost the trust of the Commonwealth,” Suetterlein said, “and the Governor should have replaced the parole board long ago.”

He introduced legislation to increase the transparency surrounding parole board decisions, and said the state needs a truly independent investigation.

“What we know now is not very good. Each continuing revelation has been worse,” Suetterlein said. “And we need to get to the bottom of this so we can start going in the right direction again.”

During the briefing, Northam said he supports an independent investigation, and promised he will have more to say about that later.

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