LAWFUEL – The Chicago Tribune reports on the third attempt at parole from triple murderer William Heirens.
William Heirens, his legs swollen from diabetes, pushes himself slowly in his wheelchair toward his visitors at the state prison.
“I figure I’ll be getting out this year,” he predicted last week in a Tribune interview. “It’s a bad thing on the reputation of Illinois that they lock people up forever.”
Heirens has served more than six decades in prison—longer than any other inmate in Illinois history—for one of the most shocking murder sprees in Chicago annals.
With the Illinois Prisoner Review Board set to rule Thursday on yet another parole bid by Heirens, the case raises fundamental questions about justice and punishment, rehabilitation and retribution.
Heirens has spent a virtual lifetime, from age 17 to 78, as a model prisoner. He was even the first Illinois inmate to earn a college degree behind bars.
Now Heirens’ advancing age is forcing the state to decide what his efforts at rehabilitation are ultimately worth. Has he earned a measure of mercy in his final years, or do his crimes carry a price that can never be paid?
While his lawyers argue that Heirens should be freed because of good conduct and his failing health, the murder victims’ relatives, who have long fought to keep him behind bars, say they live in fear of the day he might be released.
“There can be no sense of security if he gets out,” said James Degnan, who was born after his sister Suzanne died at the hands of Heirens.