DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan inmate might not be released for years — or ever — despite winning an unprecedented case at the state Supreme Court that challenged a governor’s ability to alter his sentence then change her mind.
The court last week said Gov. Jennifer Granholm acted illegally in 2010 when she reversed her decision to commute Matthew Makowski’s no-parole sentence in the fatal stabbing of a co-worker in Dearborn 26 years ago.
But after analyzing the court’s opinion, the state parole board has determined that Makowski doesn’t automatically qualify for freedom. The board believes he must get in line like other inmates and start the parole process from scratch.
It means the board or a judge could veto any parole consideration — and make him wait years for another look at his case, the Corrections Department said Friday.
“It’s a lengthy process, and he’s starting from the beginning. The game has changed,” spokesman Russ Marlan told The Associated Press.
Makowski’s attorney, Paul Reingold, declined to comment.
Marlan said the last two lines of the Supreme Court opinion are crucial. The court said Makowski should be treated as an inmate with a “parolable life sentence.”
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Marlan said. “The language of the order is what changed the direction of the case.”
Instead of simply voting to release Makowski, based on Granholm’s commutation of the sentence, the board will take a slower approach.
A board member will interview Makowski, and the 10-member board then will decide whether to open the case. If a majority says yes, the rules call for seeking permission from a judge in Wayne County where Makowski was convicted.
That judge, however, could stop the process with a stroke of a pen.
If there is no objection from a judge, the board likely will hold a public hearing at which Makowski and others, including the victim’s family, would testify about whether he deserves to be released. The prosecutor is opposed.