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Dying Woman First to Be Paroled After Supreme Court Ruling on Life Sentences for Juveniles

A 33-year old woman dying of breast cancer will be the first person paroled after a landmark Supreme Court ruling deemed sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole unconstitutional.

Kristina Fetters, who killed her great-aunt on the day she escaped with another teen from an in-patient mental health facility, was originally sentenced at the age of 15 to live out her natural life beyond bars for the murder. Yet, after the Supreme Court ruled her original sentence unconstitutional, lawyers worked on behalf of Fetters to have her re-sentencing expedited due to her failing health.

In late November, after word that Fetters health had worsened reached the courthouse, Iowa’s Polk County Judge Douglas Staskal re-sentenced the ailing inmate, opening the door to her release.  He also recommended the parole board grant her petition for compassionate release as soon as possible due to the fact she has “redeemed herself” and her prognosis was grim.

This week, the Iowa Parole Board announced their decision granting Fetters permission to leave the prison and be treated in a hospice setting, where she can be attended to by her mother and skilled staff.

Sister Sandy Rodemyer, a volunteer who works with dying inmates at the Iowa Correctional Facility for Women, where Fetters is currently housed, said that Fetters stage 4 cancer is inoperable and having her remain behind bars would serve little purpose.

“What good would it do?” she told local news KCCI 8. “She’s dying, she’s no threat to anybody.”

Despite the heinous crime that took the life of Arlene Klehm, and one Fetters readily admitted she had committed,  even the prosecutor who tried the case 19 years ago noted that in her time behind bars Fetters had made a positive life change and should be released to die in hospice care.

“She’s really tried to persuade these kids that going down that path is not a good one,” Steven Foritano, the Polk County trial bureau chief said. “She’s really done a lot of positive steps over the years, even from prison.”

Not all Iowans, however were happy with the outcome.  One KCCI 8 viewer, Brandy Brimson Meyers commented on the local news outlet’s facebook page, “Did her aunt get to die peacefully, in the arms of her loved ones?”

Sarah Gavigan echoed the sentiment, asking what is wrong with a system that caters to killers. “She took a life of an innocent women.. she deserves to die in jail…”

An actual release date has not been set, but it expected that Fetters, who can no longer walk without assistance and was recently hospitalized for severe pain, will be moved to hospice care outside the prison within the next two weeks.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/KCCI 8

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.