Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman successfully pushed for the early release of a man convicted of murdering a Pittsburgh man.
Fetterman, who oversees the state’s Board of Pardons, voted in August 2019 to grant a public hearing for Raymond Johnson, who was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of first-degree and second-degree murder in a 1973 York County slaying.
Johnson was accused of luring his victim to a woman’s house, shooting the man with a sawed-off shotgun before stabbing him to death, robbing him of his belongings and disposing the body alongside accomplice Kenneth Wayne Smith, who was also convicted of first-degree murder in the killing.
On Sept. 13, 2019, Fetterman’s Board of Pardons voted unanimously to commute Johnson’s sentence, and Gov. Tom Wolf granted the request that December, releasing Johnson from prison. Johnson was required to spend a year in a halfway house and comply with parole for life.
Fetterman said at the time that he supported Johnson’s commutation, despite opposition from the York County district attorney’s office, in part because Johnson had served 36 years without committing an infraction, PennLive.com reported.
“Why have this mechanism if we’re unwilling to extend it to someone who has demonstrated 36 years of impeccable behavior,” Fetterman told the outlet at the time.
Johnson is only one of several individuals convicted of first-degree murder that Fetterman has recommended for commutation.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last month that the lieutenant governor was the only member of the Board of Pardons to vote to commute the sentence of Wayne Covington, who was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of an 18-year-old.
Fetterman’s record on crime has come under scrutiny as his race heats up against Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz.
Fetterman says he wants to eliminate mandatory life sentences for those convicted of second-degree murder, but he has not said that applies to first-degree murder.
The lieutenant governor has also expressed support for reducing Pennsylvania’s prison population by one-third.
Fetterman’s campaign responded to Fox News Digital’s request for comment by attacking Oz for being out of touch with Pennsylvanians after having “just moved” to the state.
“Dr. Oz lives in a mansion on a hill, what does he know about confronting crime? John Fetterman has actually done it, and done it successfully,” campaign spokesman Joe Calvello said. “So he’s not going to be taking pointers from a guy who just moved here and has absolutely no understanding of the problems facing Pennsylvania.”
Oz’s campaign has previously hit back against claims that he’s a Pennsylvania outsider, saying he currently resides in state, votes in the state, went to college in the state and has his medical license there.
Rising crime rates nationwide have become a hot-button topic ahead of the midterm elections.
A 19-year-old repeat offender who was released early went on a shooting spree in Memphis on Wednesday, killing four and wounding at least three others.
The suspect, Ezekiel Kelly, had been sentenced to three years in prison for aggravated assault but was released in March after serving just 11 months of his sentence. Wednesday’s rampage came less than six months after his release.
“If Mr. Kelly served his full three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said during a press conference.