HARTFORD — In a symbolic gesture to a wrongly convicted man who served two decades in Connecticut prisons before he was exonerated, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday announced the appointment of Kenneth Ireland to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Ireland, 44, was convicted in 1989 for the murder and rape of 30-year-old Barbara Pelkey. He spent nearly half his life serving part of a 50-year prison sentence before DNA evidence proved he was innocent and led a judge to order his immediate release in 2009.
For years, Ireland’s fate was in the hands of the state — and now, in his new role on the board, his responsibilities will include deciding the future of others who claim innocence and appeal for clemency.
“Ken Ireland is a man of extraordinary character, who endured the unimaginable pain of nearly 20 years of wrongful incarceration and yet is not only without bitterness, but is incredibly thoughtful, insightful and committed to public safety and public service,” said Malloy, who announced four other appointments to the Board of Pardons and Paroles Wednesday. The others have backgrounds in nonprofit management, law, and parole or probation; Ireland is the only one of the five to have served prison time in Connecticut.
“By long experience, Ken Ireland is intimately familiar with the criminal justice system and knows better than most that there are individuals who deserve to be in prison and there are individuals whom society should give another chance, and I believe that he will take very, very seriously the responsibility of making those judgments,” the governor said.
Lawyers with the Connecticut Innocence Project worked to overturn Ireland’s wrongful conviction – a process that involved the use of technologies not available in the 1980s. Ireland has sued the state for damages, seeking up to $8 million in compensation for wrongful imprisonment. Including pre-trial time, he served 21 years. Ireland currently works as a bookkeper for the Capitol Region Education Council.
“I’m honored by the trust placed in me by Governor Malloy,” he said in a statement released Wednesday through his attorney, William Bloss. “Perhaps more than most, I understand the importance of fairness in the criminal justice system and the importance of public safety. I look forward to serving the people of the state of Connecticut in any way possible.”
Bloss praised Malloy’s decision to select Ireland.
“This is a brilliant, inspired nomination that shows innovative thinking,” he said. “This is an appointment that the citizens should be proud of.”
Also on Wednesday, Malloy announced the nomination of four residents to serve as Superior Court judges. One of them was Kevin Doyle, a senior assistant state’s attorney in New Haven whose office prosecuted Kevin Benefield in the Pelkey slaying after the DNA evidence that cleared Ireland linked the former deli worker to the crime. Benefield was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
The state currently has 14 Superior Court vacancies, with more anticipated before the end of the year.
“These nominees will bring to the bench and to the board the skills, the temperament, and a diversity of experiences and backgrounds that will allow them to serve our state with distinction, fairness, integrity, and respect for the people of Connecticut,” Malloy said.
The other Superior Court nominations are:
Alex V. Hernandez, a criminal defense attorney at Pullman & Comley and former federal prosecutor.
Sheila M. Prats, a self-employed attorney and former public defender. Prats served as a Superior Court judge from 2000 to 2003 before stepping down to address family matters.
Omar A. Williams, an assistant public defender.
The other Board of Pardons and Paroles appointments are:
Joy Chance, who has over 16 years experience evaluating parolees for appropriate placement in parole-supervised programs.
Rufaro Berry, a paralegal.
Patricia Thomas Camp, who chairs the board at Zezzo House, a Hartford-based nonprofit that provides affordable housing to low-income families affected by HIV.
Terry M. Borjeson, the Newington town council majority leader. Borjeson previously held a management position with Community Solutions Inc., a group that works on behalf of people involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice and criminal justice systems.
Reprinted from the Hartford Courant. Courant staff writer Alaine Griffin contributed to this story.
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Minister/Director
Lynn Springer, Advocate, Innocent Spouses & Children
George Bresnan, Advocate, Ex-Pats
Michael Karaffa, Advocate, Disabilities