HARRISBURG, PA — Thirteen clemency applicants sentenced to life in prison will soon be freed to a Community Corrections Center and eventually paroled because Governor Tom Wolf signed their commutations this week. Each of the 13 was recommended by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, led by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. The Board sends the recommendations to Gov. Wolf, who reviews each one and signs after he has completed his thorough review.
“These 13 individuals have served time for their crimes and deserve now a second chance,” Gov. Wolf said. “They now have a chance to begin a life outside of prison that I hope is fulfilling for each of them.”
A commutation of a life sentence means a reduction of the sentence to life on parole. These individuals will be released from prison with time served:
- George W. Burkhardt, 83, Lancaster, served 30 years for Murder 2, recommended in Dec. 2020
- Daniel Cummings, 75, Philadelphia, served 38 years for Murder 1, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Eric I. Eisen, 52, Allegheny, served 26 years for Murder 2, recommended in Dec. 2020
- Reid Evans, 57, Philadelphia, served 39 years for Murder 2, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Wyatt Evans, 58, Philadelphia, served 39 years for Murder 2, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Charlie J. Goldblum, 71, Allegheny, served 42 years for Murder 1, recommended in Sept. 2019
- Charles M. Haas, 72, Philadelphia, served 41 years for Murder 2, recommended in Dec. 2020
- Dennis Horton, 51, Philadelphia, served 27 years for Murder 2, recommended in Dec. 2020
- Lee A. Horton, 55, Philadelphia, served 27 years from Murder 2, recommended in Dec. 2020
- Avis Lee, 59, Allegheny, served 40 years for Murder 2, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Francisco Mojita, Sr.,58, Philadelphia, served 28 years for Murder 2, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Mildred Strickland, 75, Philadelphia, served 31 years for Murder 1, recommended in Sept. 2020
- Gregory Stover, 55, Philadelphia, served 32 years for Murder 1, recommended in Sept. 2020
Among those whose sentences were commuted are two sets of Philadelphia brothers who were both sentenced to life in prison under separate second-degree murder cases.
Reid Evans and Wyatt Evans have served nearly 40 years since their 1981 convictions. The brothers robbed a 68-year-old man at gunpoint and forced him out of his car, stealing the vehicle. The man later had a heart attack and died early the next day, making the robbery a murder under the felony murder law.
Dennis Horton and Lee Horton have served 27 years for a 1993 robbery and fatal shooting that both men have maintained they didn’t commit. Convinced they would be acquitted, they turned down plea deals for 5-10 years in prison. Found guilty; however, they have continued to proclaim their innocence while serving more than five times the minimum sentence they were offered.
Also, among the cases are women, Avis Lee, 59, and Mildred Strickland, 75, who were both sentenced to life for murder in separate Philadelphia County cases.
Separate from commutations are pardons, which if approved by the governor constitute state forgiveness of a crime. Pardons are often the first step for people to petition their charging counties for expungement of their record, which is not automatic with a granted pardon in Pennsylvania.
Lt. Gov. Fetterman chairs the five-person board, which hears applications for pardons and commutations. The board must vote unanimously (5-0) on applications for commutations of life sentences to pass the recommendations to the governor.
Fetterman said he was relieved and deeply thankful for Governor Wolf’s action to commute the sentences. “Each of these Pennsylvanians is fully deserving of the chance to return to their families and start a new life,” he said.
The Board has recently implemented several changes to improve the clemency process in Pennsylvania, including rewriting the application to make it more user-friendly, reducing the required application fee to zero dollars, and expediting the application process for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.
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