ROANOKE, Va (WFXR) — Mayor Sherman Lea is facing backlash after it was released that he voted back in April 2020 to grant parole to Vincent Martin, a man convicted of killing a Richmond police officer in 1979.
That vote came just after the Virginia Parole Board released a record number of offenders the month before, prompting an investigation into the board’s actions.
Before being released, Vincent Martin served more than 30 years in jail after being convicted of killing Richmond police officer, Michael Connors.
Mayor Lea says there are no guaranteed outcomes when it comes to parole decisions. He says the board works to make informed decisions and hopes for a positive outcome.
“There’s not an exact science when you do that, and no parole board in the country would tell you they’re okay and all their cases are going to go out and do well and everything is fine. You pray and hope that that happens, but realistically you don’t have much control over that,” said Mayor Lea.
When voting on parole, Mayor Lea says the board takes into consideration an offender’s behavior, reports from families, as well as the parolee’s future plans.
“That’s all I can say about it. We made a decision. We as a parole board made a decision, which is what we are put in place to do,” said Mayor Lea.
However, for those directly impacted by an offender’s actions, it is hard to see a silver lining.
In an interview done by WFXR’s sister station, WRIC in Richmond back in 2020, Connors’ sister Maureen Clements shares her reaction to martin’s release.
“My parents have always said the only peace we really received was knowing this man was behind bars because he took our brother. They took our son,” said Clements.
Reports released by the Attorney General in 2022 say board members were unresponsive to the victim’s opposition to Martin’s release.
“We have to use our best judgment to vote on cases, and that’s what I did during my eight years on the parole board,” said Mayor Lea.
The report goes on to say that the investigation finds Vincent Martin’s release was done in an “atypical manner”– even stating in the report that Mayor Lea did admit there were some mistakes made in the handling of Martin’s case.
Mayor Lea adds that in most cases, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not see a high number of offenses by those released on parole but emphasizes that there is never any way of knowing for sure.