OTHER OPINION: There’s no justice in this

By Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport

Biloxi High School senior Genevieve “Nicole” Muñoz disappeared at age 18 on June 11, 1994. On April 9, 2009, Michael David Lamb, who had fathered Nicole’s child, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Nicole’s killing. A judge sentenced him to 20 years, the maximum time allowed.
On Dec. 23, 2012, Lamb was released from prison. He was a free man, neither on probation nor on parole.
Nicole’s parents, Vincente and Victoria Lynn Muñoz, were given no advance notice of Lamb’s release.
As Vincente Muñoz tells the Sun Herald’s Margaret Baker in our article:
“Here I was trying to take care of my wife, who was dying. And the phone is ringing every two hours well into Christmas Eve morning with an automated message telling us he was being released on such and such date, but the date had already passed. He was already out. This is the way my wife and I spent our last Christmas together – listening to a voice telling us they were letting the murderer of our daughter go. This wasn’t justice for Nicole. This wasn’t justice at all.”
It was the injustice of just such a release that prompted the Mississippi Legislature in 1995 to enact a “truth in sentencing” law requiring those convicted of certain violent crimes to serve 85 percent of their sentence.
But because Nicole was killed in 1994, the law did not apply to her killer.
So Lamb was able to shave years off his sentence by gaining trusty status and taking classes. When the formula used by the state Department of Corrections showed he had served a sufficient amount of time, he was set free, however shy of 20 years that might be.
At the very least, corrections officials should be more considerate of victim’s families than to contact them with automated calls about a convict’s release – especially after the fact.
And while “meritorious time” does serve to keep inmates from feeling hopeless, there are some felons for whom such provisions should be severely limited.
Having waited so long for justice, the Muñoz family has had to endure more disappointment than the law should ever have allowed. May it never happen again.