Judge says law blocking killer's parole unconstitutional

Judge says law blocking killer's parole unconstitutional
Judith Ann Neelley (Source: Alabama Dept. of Corrections)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A woman originally sentenced to die for the 1982 slaying of a 13-year-old Georgia girl in north Alabama has won a legal battle in her fight to one day get a chance at parole.

A federal judge ruled Friday that an Alabama law, passed retroactively to prevent Judith Ann Neelley from getting parole, was unconstitutional.

Alabama Gov. Fob James on his last day in office in 1999 commuted Neelley's death sentence to life imprisonment. In response, lawmakers in 2003 passed a law that death row inmates who had their sentences commuted "shall not be eligible for a parole."

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ruled Friday that lawmakers could not retroactively increase Neelley's punishment.

Neelley's attorney, Barry Ragsdale, said the decision was a victory for the Constitution.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.