June 28, 2010

State denies convicted killer's release petition

Jeffrey Libby, who links his grandfather's slaying to abuse by a priest, plans to appeal to the governor.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

For the past 24 years, Jeffrey L. Libby has waged a losing campaign to be freed.

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Jeffrey Libby, 1994

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Jeffrey Libby, 2010

Convicted of murder in the July 8, 1986, drowning of his grandfather Percy Libby in his bathtub in Winslow, the younger man saw his latest hopes for release dashed.

"Everyone thought this case (would be) so successful," Jeffrey Libby, now 47, said in a phone call from the Maine State Prison in Warren.

He learned last month that his petition for commutation of his 60-year sentence was dismissed without a hearing in April.

The petition says the sentencing judge was unaware of important factors in Libby's life, especially his victimization by a Catholic priest serving in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., when he was 13 and 14.

"Everything was repressed inside of me, all of it," Libby said

"We thought it was unique cause because of the priest abuse issue," said his attorney, Walter McKee, who filed the petition. The petition says Libby requested commutation before serving half his original sentence, which is the usual procedure.

"You have to show extraordinary circumstances to get a hearing early, and then you have to show extraordinary circumstances to get out early," McKee said. "The disappointing part is we didn't get an opportunity to have our say before the board directly."

Next, Libby plans to appeal to the governor, McKee said.

"What is unique about Jeff's case is that it is the first case in Maine that we're aware of that specifically ties a violent crime to sexual abuse by a priest," McKee said. "The criminal justice system was never given a chance to address this unique situation 23 years ago when Jeff was sentenced to 60 years in prison and unless the governor will consider this commutation request directly, the system never will."

He pursued a civil lawsuit over the sexual abuse, saying, "These suppressed feelings of participation in sexual perversion, guilt and shame and dysfunctional relationships eventually led to his being in prison for a 60-year term for drowning his abusive grandfather in the bathtub."

Libby sought $15 million in damages and received an undisclosed settlement from the diocese in September 2009. He said he invested the money in stocks and in a private bank account.

Libby has spent much of his incarceration writing letters to judges seeking a new trial, seeking a transfer to a pre-release or minimum-security facility, and asking for legal documents related to his case, including transcripts.

Before his arrest on the murder charge, Libby had other, mostly minor, criminal convictions in Maine.

Published reports show that the death of Percy Libby, 64, initially raised no suspicions. His grandson called police to report finding the body when he returned early on July 8, 1986, to the home they shared.

Police testify the younger man was crying and repeating, "I can't believe this has happened."

However, it was shortly after word of the death got out that police heard stories from several individuals who said Jeffrey Libby had tried to get them to kill his grandfather and had even offered to pay up to $1,000.

Libby denied it all, even after his former girlfriend described on the stand the younger Libby showing her how he would drown his grandfather.

At the Augusta jury trial, relatives testified that the elder Libby was planning to sell his home and move in with other relatives who had been helping him.

That would have left Jeffrey Libby without a place to live.

"I didn't do nothing," Libby told police, according to a document filed with the court. "I didn't murder my grandfather."

Libby said he has family in Florida, and his mother has remained supportive of him.

 

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