RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A man who has been behind bars for over 40 years is set to be released on parole this week, his close friends told 8News. A group of about 20 people gathered at the Robert E. Lee monument Tuesday to share that “he is a changed man.”
Vincent Martin, 64, was convicted of killing a Richmond Police Officer Michael Connors following a robbery incident in 1979.
Martin is currently serving time at the Nottoway Correctional Center. The 64-year-old was scheduled to be released on May 11. However, his release date was pushed back due to several Republican lawmakers imploring Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to prevent Martin’s release.
One friend who met Martin while in prison, Willie Brown, was at Tuesday’s rally.
“They said that all of us that were incarcerated at one time, that we were the worst of the worst,” Brown said. “But yet we’re here doing the work in our community and affecting change.”
“He’s a mentor and a life coach for me,” Brown added. “He has been a big inspiration in my life. He has done a wonderful job transforming himself, rehabilitating himself.”
Cheryl Nici-O’Connell, a retired police officer who is now with the Richmond United for Law Enforcement, said she’s actively working to keep Martin in prison for years to come.
“The facts stand by themself,” she told 8News Tuesday. “He is a threat to public safety and he should stay in prison for the rest of his natural life.”
Nici-O’Connell told 8News Martin was denied parole in the past and said he is a danger to society. Nici-O’Connell shared her own violent encounter with a criminal, revealing with 8News that she was ambushed, attacked and shot in the head from just a few feet away by a total stranger in 1984.
“As a victim myself, what a gross disservice to the victim’s family,” she said.
Amid the controversy, the parole board has defended their decision, saying Martin has been infraction free for more than 30 years.
About a month ago, the Office of the State Inspector General launched an investigation into the decision. The state’s parole board addressed the investigation in a news release dated May 11.
In the release, they wrote: “The Parole Board has been made aware that the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) is conducting an administrative investigation into the Board’s policies and procedures as they pertain to the recent parole grant of Vincent Martin. In an effort to ensure due diligence, as the new Chair of the Virginia Parole Board, I believe it is prudent to place a temporary hold on Vincent Martin’s release, for a period not to exceed 30 days, pending the conclusion of this investigation.”
In closing, the parole board wrote: “The Board remains confident in its decision to grant parole to Mr. Martin and looks forward to the conclusion of this administrative investigation.”
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