FRANKFORT, Ky. – A convicted sex offender, several domestic violence victims, and a man convicted of wanton murder are all beneficiaries of pardons by Governor Matt Bevin.
One of those pardons is for Paul Donel Hurt. In 2001, Hurt was convicted of sex abuse and sodomy against his 6-year-old stepdaughter.
In his pardon, Bevin wrote he believed Hurt was wrongly convicted and jailed for nearly 20 years. He wrote, “It is my fervent hope and prayer that Mr. Hurt will find his faith in God and in his fellow man restored and that he and his family will be abundantly blessed as he experiences the restoration of his freedom in the years ahead.”
Since his conviction, Hurt has worked to try and get it overturned. In 2003, he appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court arguing the trial court was wrong in finding his accuser competent to testify and denying two of his motions, including one for a directed verdict, where a trial judge enters a ruling. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld his conviction.
In 2015, the judge who originally sentenced Hurt, Stephen Mershon retired and began writing to Hurt. He became convinced of Hurt’s innocence and helped Hurt file a series of motions. An evidentiary hearing was held and the victim recanted her testimony. After the evidentiary hearing, the trial court issued an opinion and order that said: “the victim’s recantation was inconsistent over time, that was a ‘shifting account,’ and that it was ‘no more likely to be true than false.” The court denied Hurt’s motion to set aside his conviction.
In Friday’s pardon, Bevin wrote, “In light of all that is known and all that will forever remain unknown, it does not seem possible that justice can be truly served in this instance.”
Domestic Violence Victims
Bevin also pardoned five women who had been convicted of killing their abusers. Their charges ranged from murder, assault, and manslaughter. The women had already had their sentences commuted, but have now all been pardoned for their crimes.
- Donna Wheeler – commuted sentence w2015
- Jilletta Turner – commuted sentence 2007
- Judy Lee – commuted sentence 2015
- Pearlie Gambrel – commuted sentence 2015
- Laurie Andrade – commuted sentence 2015
Another man, Justin Wibbels was convicted on wanton murder in 2014 for the death of Jerry Thompson. Wibbels was sentenced to 20 years for driving the wrong way on Ky. 30 in Laurel County. Thompson died instantly from the head-on collision.
Bevin wrote, Wibbels was involved in “a tragic accident and has been incarcerated as a result of his conviction for wanton murder. This was not a murder.”
Bevin issued sixteen unconditional pardons Friday, November 22.