Skip to comments.Yvette Louisell has been incarcerated for half her life.
Posted on 05/16/2005 9:29:18 AM PDT by Graybeard58
Yvette Louisell has been incarcerated for half her life.
Louisell was a 17-year-old Iowa State University student from Kalamazoo, Mich., when she stabbed Keith Stilwell, a 42-year-old paraplegic from Ames, to death on Dec. 6, 1987. The next day, she was arrested at North Grand Mall after she tried to use Stilwell's credit cards.
She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1988 for first-degree murder and three counts of forgery.
Now, a group of more than 25 of Louisell's supporters has Louisell organized, saying that she should be pardoned because a life sentence is too harsh, and that she now poses no danger to society.
Among them are former state senators Johnie Hammond, of Ames, and Elaine Syzmoniak, of Des Moines; George Jackson, assistant dean of the ISU Graduate College; and Margaret Wilson, a member of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's staff.
A post-conviction relief hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Story County Justice Center in Nevada.
The hearing is part of a two-pronged approach that she and her supporters hope will get her sentenced reduced, Hammond said.
The second approach is to directly petition Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to commute her sentence.
Story County Attorney Steve Holmes said post-conviction relief happens when a person has something of substance, such as new evidence, that can "reasonably result in a different outcome" from what originally happened.
Holmes said the person has to file a post-conviction relief appeal within three years of his or her original conviction. According to Iowa Code, the limitation does not apply to facts that "could not have been raised within the applicable time period," such as new evidence.
Though post-conviction appeals happen regularly, Holmes said they are important because they let everyone get their chance to be heard.
This is the second post-conviction relief appeal Louisell has filed, according to court documents.
Her latest appeal, filed in January 2001, cites new evidence that, among other things, medical evidence from the crime scene was improperly handled and that one witness in the 1988 trial, Mikkel Wagner, had recanted his testimony.
Wagner had testified that Louisell had been seeking out an older man to take care of her financially.
The other approach is to directly petition Gov. Tom Vilsack to commute her sentence, Hammond said. In the six years he has been in office, Vilsack has given out three pardons, she said.
"It's a long shot," she said. "It's always a long shot to get a commutation."
Former County Attorney Mary Richards, who prosecuted Louisell in 1988, wrote a letter to Vilsack asking him to commute her sentence.
In a phone interview from Virginia, Richards said she believes there are four basic questions that needed to be taken into account when considering a pardon: if the punishment has been sufficient, whether that person is a threat to society, if he or she will be a contributing member of society and if he or she takes responsibility for the crime.
She also said she thought Louisell would not pose a threat to society and would be a contributing member because she has presented a history of good behavior while incarcerated. She said she could not speculate on whether Louisell has taken responsibility for her crime.
Clarence Key, executive director for the Iowa Board of Parole, said commutation applications must be filed with the governor's office first. If the governor wants further investigation, he will refer it to the parole board, Key said.
Applications to commute a sentence are rarely approved, he said.
"We don't have the death penalty in Iowa, so life means life in our legal system," he said.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average life expectancy for a black woman is 83 years. Louisell is now 34. She is in the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville, where she has been since she was convicted.
"I thought that was too harsh for someone," Jackson said.
Key said there are a number of different things the board considers when it is looking at applications, but the most influential factor is the original considerations of the person's sentence. He said other things, such as good behavior or a letter similar to Richards', do not factor heavily into the deliberations.
"A person is in prison for a reason so good behavior is expected," he said.
If a life sentence is commuted, he said, it does not mean the person could get out right away. A defined sentence, commonly, 99 or 100 years, is set, he said. The parole board then decides what amount of time out of that sentence the prisoner will serve.
Frank Scaletta, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said there are 573 people serving life sentences in the Iowa prison system. Thirty-two of them are women, he said.
Franny Starkey, press secretary for Vilsack, said the Governor's office has not received an application for commutation from Louisell. She also said the governor has not received Richards' letter yet.
Prisoners can apply to commute their sentences every 10 years, according to the Department of Corrections.
According to the Iowa Department of Corrections policy, prisoners under appeal are not able to be interviewed by members of the media.
Des Moines lawyer Paul Rosenburg, who is representing Louisell, was unavailable for comment.
If not, another 50 years is not "too harsh".
Nothing new, she just thinks she has been there long enough.
As far as I can tell her victim is still dead.
Harsh? Pretty harsh to be a paraplegic and be murdered by scum....
Yvette Louisell has been incarcerated for half her life.
Happy Birthday, bitch.
(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,
Death penalty would have been better.
Then she only has the other half to go.
In my book, just as soon as that murder victim speaks out in her defense, then she walks. She should study channeling with all of the free (pun intended) time she has.
Somebody must be looking down at us...from somewhere..and wondering what is wrong with us.
They should of reminded us how much mercy this monster showed her victim.
Oh wait, you mean she didn't show her ANY mercy at all? She just murdered her to steal her credit card?
Now she wants to go free while her victim still lies dead in the cold dirt.
She should have been given the death penalty and it should have already been carried out. Sadly, there's no justice these days. People that think like these so called supporters of hers are a huge cause of that lack of justice.
It is all in the way you look at [it]; half empty, half full.
She should be thankful she doesnt live in Texas, Victim's Rights Capital of the USA.
Why don't you at least read the article and familiarize yourself with the case before you spout off, she killed a guy, not a girl.
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