Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Parole reversal at issue

Springfield Twp. killer appeals

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — On Sept. 11, after nearly 12 years in prison, convicted killer Timothy Woodson already had shipped his belongings home and was scheduled to walk out the gates of Lebanon Correctional Institution the next day as a free man.

        But the Ohio Parole Authority refused the Springfield Township man his freedom, though it had been promised six weeks before.

        Instead, the agency overturned Mr. Woodson's parole, and tacked on another five years, after calling for a second hearing in December on a last-minute protest from victim advocates.

        Now, Mr. Woodson is challenging that action in a court case that could change how the parole board does business. A lawsuit filed Monday in Warren County asks a judge to order his release from prison.

        The complaint questions the propriety of the parole board's decision to hold a second hearing and rescind the parole it granted in July.

        “I think it's a little bit extraordinary after (parole has) already been granted,” Mr. Woodson's lawyer, Victor Dwayne Sims, said Tuesday.

        Mr. Woodson was sent to prison in 1989 for 10 to 25 years after a Hamilton County jury convicted him of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Greta Harris, his 29-year-old live-in girlfriend. Mr. Woodson admitted chopping her in the neck with an ax during an argument and disposing of her body in a grave near Jellico, Tenn., with their 2-year-old son along.

        Mr. Woodson came up for his first parole hearing in May. According to state documents filed with Mr. Woodson's case, the Ohio Parole Authority set a Sept. 12 date for Mr. Woodson's release after a parole board member and a hearing officer recommended his parole.

        The court complaint contends that the parole board arbitrarily changed its mind in December even though no new information about Mr. Woodson's crime or background was presented at the full hearing.

        Ms. Harris' mother, Mabel Harris, said she wasn't aware of Mr. Woodson's earlier parole until an Enquirer reporter told her Tuesday. She said she spoke at the December hearing at the state's urging.

        Corrections spokesman Joe Andrews couldn't explain the glitch, saying state records indicate that Mrs. Harris was notified of the earlier hearing, which took place in May.

        Even so, he said victim advocates have authority to ask for a full hearing on any inmate release. Mr. Andrews didn't know how often cases are reconsidered after the parole board already signs off on its decision.

        Mrs. Harris said she was surprised to hear about Mr. Woodson's legal action, and thinks he should stay in prison. She said she will leave it up to the state to fight that battle.

        “Now he wants his freedom to walk the street, and my child is dead,” Mrs. Harris said from her Avondale home.

        “It don't make sense that these people are killing people and getting out, walking the street. It just don't make sense.”

        The case first comes to court March 5, when Judge P. Daniel Fedders will be asked to rule on Mr. Woodson's request for a restraining order, barring corrections officials from moving him to another prison before the lawsuit is decided.


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