Lynchburg family asks for governor to intervene in parole decision

Sarah Jamison
Sarah Jamison(Family)
Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 9:01 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Lynchburg family is outraged after they say the man who was convicted for the rape and murder of a teenager is set to be released from prison. Their concern has made it all the way to the desks of state legislators. But they don’t want it to stop there.

Sarah Jamison was a 15-year-old Heritage High School student, pictured here at her prom in 1988.

“Sarah was just a very smart, fun-loving girl. I mean she was an average teenager,” said Darrel Gallier, Jamison’s brother-in-law.

“She was in our wedding,” he said in a virtual interview Tuesday, “and about a year after we were married is when she was raped and murdered.”

The man charged for strangling her to death and then hiding her body was 16-year-old Gregory Joyner.

In 1989 he was convicted of attempted rape and murder and sentenced to life in prison plus ten years.

But after just 32 years he’s set to be released later this month.

“Her life has ended because of this murderer,” Gallier said. “...He’s still got a lot of life to live.”

“It doesn’t make much sense,” said Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison.

Her office issued a press release Tuesday with the family’s concerns.

“So other people know you know what they’ve got coming, getting out of jail,” said Gallier.

In late November, Harrison said the Virginia Parole Board granted Joyner parole, even after denying parole last year for the seriousness of his crime.

“In this particular case, a strangulation,” she said. “A very intimate way to tortuously kill someone, to squeeze the life out of another human being, while the offender watched. These are not the kinds of people we need out on the streets of the commonwealth.”

Harrison and Gallier want the governor to overturn the board’s decision, as they await his release. Gallier believes Joyner will be out of prison sometime this month.

House Republican leader Todd Gilbert issued a letter Tuesday, too, calling on the Governor to intervene.

This is the latest in a series of complaints about parole board decisions, some of which have been substantiated after investigation by the state’s Inspector General but which still remain hidden from the public.

WDBJ7 reached out to the parole board’s chair to understand why they’re granting home parole.

In an email Board Chair Tonya Chapman said:

“The Virginia Parole Board’s monthly decisions are published on the Parole Board’s public website in accordance with Virginia Code § 53.1-136 (6). As noted on the website, the Parole Board does not provide information as to individual parole decisions in response to questions submitted through the online contact form. As such, the Parole Board will not provide further comment to media requests for details on individual cases.

Since parole was abolished about 25 years ago, the remaining offenders that are eligible for discretionary parole are generally convicted of serious offenses. These are very difficult cases and the Parole Board does not take lightly the responsibility to ensure that each release is compatible with public safety.Each Parole Board member has an independent vote with unique reasoning as to why they vote to grant or not grant a case.The Board takes many factors into consideration when voting a case. These factors include, but are not limited to: criminal history, victim input, age at time of offense, institutional adjustment, medical/mental health, pre-sentence report and sentencing information, time served, home plan, offender support, offender opposition, and risk assessment. Every case is unique with its own individual set of circumstances and each case must be viewed comprehensively.”

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