Another Washington state death blamed on a prisoner freed by mistake

Washington Inmate Released By Mistake Arrested For Murder
Washington Inmate Released By Mistake Arrested For Murder


Dec 31 (Reuters) - A former Washington state prisoner among those mistakenly released early since 2002 has been arrested on suspicion of killing a man, in the second death blamed on a wrongly released inmate, officials said on Thursday.

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Jeremiah Smith, 26, is being held on a first-degree murder charge over an attempted robbery that led to the death of Ceasar Medina in May, 12 days after Smith was wrongly released from a state prison, the Washington Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Last week, state officials said as many as 3,200 inmates may have been mistakenly released early from Washington prisons since 2002 because of errors in calculating sentences.

Smith, initially convicted of robbery, burglary and assault, should have been released in August, the department said. Smith has been held in Spokane County jail, in eastern Washington, since his arrest in connection with Medina's killing.

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"I'm heartsick that this tragedy occurred at all, much less during the time in which Jeremiah Smith should have been incarcerated," said Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke.

Washington state corrections authorities learned of the problem in 2012 but failed to fix it. Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said he has ordered officials to temporarily halt all releases of prisoners with enhanced sentences until a hand calculation ensured the offender would be set free at the correct time.

State officials expect to have a fix soon for the computer software used to calculate release dates.

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An attorney for Smith, Tracy Scott Collins, said he was concerned that his client's right to a fair trial might be hampered by "him being identified with this group of inmates released early by the state."

Medina's slaying is the second death blamed on a wrongly freed inmate.

Inmate Robert Jackson was charged with vehicular homicide in November and is back in custody in connection with that death, the corrections department said.

Jackson was released from prison on Aug. 10. His correct release date should have been Dec. 6. An attorney for Jackson could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Chicago, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and David Gregorio)

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