Compassionate Consideration Needed in Flynn Early Release Bid

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An Editorial

Hampton Union, Friday, December 14, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
William "Billy" Flynn is 33 today but for some the image of a 15-year-old boy wiping tears away is burned into the collective memory. Flynn, an inmate of the Maine State Prison in Warren, is seeking a reduction in his 40-year prison sentence. He was sent to prison in 1992 and is not eligible for parole until 2018. William Flynn is indeed a murderer, but denying him parole without considering his request may fall somewhere short of justice. Simply saying he should rot in prison without reviewing the horrid acts of 17 years ago would continue the collective failure to this boy and the other children involved in Gregory Smart's murder. The murder of Gregory Smart is a real story, not a scandalous movie from the 1990s. Sometimes it seems as if there was never a mea culpa from anyone other than those sent to prison. Sometimes it seems the media circus and rush to have the first movie lost just how young these boys were. If one stops and thinks, shouldn't we ask how the collective community could have allowed this whole thing to happen? Being 15 doesn't mean one isn't accountable for his actions, particularly if murderous. But while Flynn, Patrick Randall, Vance Lattime Jr. and Ray Fowler are men today, they were just impressionable teens, boys, children back then. Lattime, who drove the getaway car, and Fowler, who waited in the getaway car, were both paroled in recent years. Pamela Smart should never walk free again for her role in having her husband killed. But Flynn and Randall, should the latter request, deserve to be heard regarding any bid for early release from prison. This is not to say it should be granted, but an open mind, a compassionate consideration is in order. Following the announcement of Flynn's request for a shortened sentence, Smart's brother said if anything Flynn's sentence should be lengthened, not shortened. "I think he should stay there," Dean Smart said. That is understandable. What brother wouldn't say the same thing? Gregory Smart's life was stolen. Flynn, in his six-page letter asking for the sentence reduction, said he hadn't asked for one before "because as terrible of a place as prison is I know I deserved to be here." It only took 16 years to reach that point. He further said "You must make amends for the sin. But how do you make amends for taking a life? You can't." Time is not of the essence here. Flynn could "rot" in jail for the rest of his life. His legacy could be incarcerated for eternity and Gregory Smart would never live again. The essence is whether Flynn and the others paid their debt to society; if they can be productive members of society; that in their heart of hearts they ache in sorrow for their actions. That is what the judge should consider. Perhaps Flynn should stay in prison another 10 years, but the judge and the collective us shouldn't make that decision by simply looking at a 33-year-old man in prison garb without remembering a boy on the witness stand.
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