Former DA Stands By Early-Released Inmate Ahead Of Prater Inquiry

Friday, August 10th 2012, 10:26 pm
By: News 9

A former district attorney is speaking out about one of the men he put in prison; a man he actually encouraged the governor and Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to release early.

Now that release may be thrown out as a result of the current DA's investigation into whether the pardon and parole board violated the law.

Wes Lane spent five and half years as the Oklahoma County district attorney and says he never staked his reputation on an inmate, until he met Walter Hill.

"People need to take risks and I felt like Walter was a good risk," Lane said.

Lane says he met Hill while he was still in prison serving time for a burglary he committed. After years of getting to know the convict turned Christian, Lane made the unusual move of speaking on Hill's behalf when he went before the parole board and asked them, and the governor, to grant Hill early release.

8/10/2012 Related Story: Former Prisoner Worried Prater Inquiry May Send Him Back To Jail

"He's a human being and Walter deserves a chance in my book," Lane said.

Both the board and the governor agreed, and Hill was released two months ago. News 9 found him in McAlester where he is hard at work turning his life around. He's working two jobs and trying to repay his debt to society.

"I'm proud of being a tax-paying citizen again and I'm going to do everything that's possible to continue that," Hill said.

But now Hill's early release may be in jeopardy, after current Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater blasted the parole board a letter. Prater accused the board of holding what he calls "secret" dockets and violating the Open Meetings Act. As a result, more than 50 inmates, including Hill, are having their cases reviewed.

"I do have that fear that 2 o'clock in the morning I'm going to get the knock on the door ‘We're here to revoke your freedom,'" said Hill's wife, Linda Weatherby.

"The district attorney's opinion is his opinion, but like I say my actions that I've shown since I've been out hopefully and truly this will be taken into consideration," Hill said.

Lane says he respects what Prater is trying to do, but doesn't think it applies to Hill's case.

"His concern is making sure that these victims' families are heard, that something isn't being slid by. I don't blame him one bit for bringing this forward," Lane said.

Now Hill, his friends, and his family pray that his second chance isn't taken away.

"I'd be proud to have Walter as my next door neighbor. I like Walter. I care about Walter. I love Walter. I think this is a guy worth making a bet on," said Lane.

Now another thing the DA's office is investigating is why some of their objection letters, including Walter Hill's, were not included in the case files taken over to the governor. Both the governor's office and the board are investigating these latest claims and plan to take some sort of action next week.