STOUGHTON, Mass. - For most of the last 25 years, Kelly Gillis has found comfort knowing the man who killed her father was locked up behind bars.
“All the evidence is there, somebody killed a cop. He’s going to jail forever and it just didn’t happen that way,” Gillis said.
Instead, Gillis has had to watch Terrell Muhammad, the man convicted of killing her father, Boston police officer Thomas Rose, walk out of prison twice in two different states.
“It just makes you sick,” Gillis said. “You can't sleep, you're like what the --? Here we go again."
EARLY RELEASE FOR KILLING AN OFFICER
Muhammad was already a convicted killer when he crossed paths with Rose in 1993. Muhammad had served time for manslaughter in the 1986 shooting death of Dorchester clerk Angela Skeete. He was sentenced 6-10 years in that case.
In February 1993, Muhammad was arrested again, suspected of theft. When he attempted to escape from the Government Center station, there was a struggle. Rose was shot twice and killed with his own service weapon. He was 42-years-old with three children and a grandchild.
The following year, Muhammad received 26-30 years in prison for manslaughter. He was released in 2009 after serving only 15 years.
A Massachusetts Department of Correction spokesperson said Muhammad benefited from an outdated-law known as “statutory good time,” which was eliminated in 1994 with the Truth in Sentencing Law. Truth in Sentencing was designed to give judges more control over how long inmates served behind bars and impose mandatory-minimum sentences.
“When they put Truth in Sentencing into effect, it was a major shift,” Boston defense attorney David Yannetti said. “Before, you would see guys only serving a third, or two-thirds of their sentence before getting released,” he said.
A 1999 U.S. Department of Justice report showed the average prisoner released in 1996 only served 44% of their sentence.
“Many states have recently enacted a truth in sentencing law which requires offenders to serve a substantial portion of their sentence and reduces the discrepancy between the sentence imposed and actual time served in prison,” the report said.
But the Truth in Sentencing reform in Massachusetts only applied to crimes committed after July 1, 1994, more than a year after Muhammad killed Rose.
EARLY RELEASE, AGAIN
Months after he was released from a Massachusetts prison, Muhammad began committing crimes in Rhode Island.
Investigators said Muhammad stole a television from Veteran’s hospital in October 2009, then tried to run down two Cranston police officers during a high-speed chase in July 2010.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin didn’t hold back when Muhammad was sentenced in 2011.
“Terrell Muhammad is a violent criminal who has left a path of destruction in his wake,” Kilmartin said in a press release announcing Muhammad’s conviction on two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.
“He has no regard for human life…clearly the time spent incarcerated has not rehabilitated this habitual offender,” Kilmartin said.
Muhammad was sentenced to 13 years for two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. But last month, after less than 8 years, Muhammad was quietly released from the Rhode Island prison system. The Rose family was devastated again.
"I thought really they'd put him away for a long time,” Rose’s sister Peggy Rose Albanese said. “It’s just not right that people like that get out,” she said.
A Rhode Island Department of Correction spokesperson said Muhammad was released for earned good time. More than forty states have some form of good time or early release credits an inmate can accrue for good behavior, program participation and community service.
REFORMING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
On the same day Muhammad walked out of a Rhode Island prison, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed two sweeping criminal justice reform bills into law. Under HB 4012 and SB 2371, the amount of “good time” an inmate can earn every month actually increases, from 10 days to 15. But the law also places a 35% cap on good time, so someone facing a ten-year sentence could only reduce their time by three and a half years.
Inmates punished for crimes with mandatory minimum sentences must also serve the mandatory portion of that sentence before they can begin shaving time off for good time.
“I think it's better for society as a whole,” State Representative Russell Holmes said. A democrat from Mattapan, Holmes said he’s been pushing for criminal justice reform since he was elected into office in 2010.
“As we try our best to balance making sure we’re tough on crime and public safety, we still have to remind ourselves that 80 or 90 percent of these people are still going to return to our communities and we don't want people returning to our communities more dangerous than when they first went in,” Holmes said.
But former Boston police officer and DEA agent George Price disagrees. “It’s reprehensible,” he said.
Price is now a trial attorney in Boston. He doesn’t like the idea of violent, repeat offenders getting released early, particularly if they’ve committed crimes against police.
“We have this whole history here of this one person who has committed violent act after violent act after violent act and different places keep letting him out,” Price said. “If [Muhammad] is not kept in jail he’s going to do it again.”
The recent criminal justice reform in Massachusetts doesn’t comfort the Rose family, who are still angry and confused 25 years later.
“We can't believe the system runs the way it does. We can't believe this man could kill two people and be out and then attempt to hurt two officers again and still be walking in the street,” Peggy Rose Albanese said.
Boston 25 tried to speak with Muhammad. His attorney, Michael Fontaine, said he would ask his client but Fontaine never got back to us. A spokesperson with the Rhode Island Department of Correction said Muhammad’s current address is not public record.
Cox Media Group