The New York State Parole Appeals Board affirmed denial of parole last week to Judith Clark, a former member of the Weather Underground who drove the getaway car in the deadly 1981 Brinks armored car robbery in suburban New York.
Clark, 68, was sentenced to 75 years to life for her role in the heist, which resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard. She was denied parole in April by the New York Parole Board, despite having had her sentence commuted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last December, making her eligible for parole. Supporters and her attorneys have cited Clark’s “extraordinary transformation” in prison, including work tutoring other inmates, training service dogs and founding an HIV/AIDS education program while behind bars.
In a decision dated Nov. 29 but not released until late Monday, the appeals unit ruled that, despite the parole board’s finding that Clark was rehabilitated and posed no threat to society, the “seriousness of the crime” and public opposition to her release constituted grounds for denial.
Clark’s attorneys, Michael Cardozo of Proskauer and professor Steven Zeidman of CUNY Law School, announced they would immediately bring suit to challenge the ruling. “We are deeply disappointed in the decision,” Cardozo and Zeidman said jointly. “Ms. Clark is a reformed individual whose accomplishments have positively impacted numerous prison correction programs and scores of individual prisoners. She deserves and is legally entitled to parole.”
Cardozo and Zeidman said New York courts “have repeatedly ruled that, without more, the seriousness of the crime of conviction—something that can never be changed—is not a legitimate basis for denying parole,” and that a prisoner found to be rehabilitated and not a threat to society “should be granted parole.”
Clark’s attorneys said she has been in prison for 36 years and is the third-longest serving woman in the New York prison system. “Most of the other participants in the crime, including one who actually pulled the trigger, have previously been released from prison,” the lawyers stated. Gov. Cuomo, granted Clark clemency last year after interviewing her personally and noting her “exceptional strides in self-development.”
Clark will be eligible to seek parole again in 2019.
An Associated Press report was included in this story.