Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday granted clemency to 23 people, including a woman convicted of first-degree murder for her involvement in the death of a motel worker more than 20 years ago.
The announcement marks the Republican’s third round of clemency since taking office in 2019. Lee approved 22 pardons and one commutation.
“Clemency is a very powerful tool and it is not something that I take lightly,” Lee told reporters on Friday, stressing that it is “unique to the role of the governor at the state level.”
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A pardon serves as a statement of forgiveness to someone who has completed their prison sentence and are no longer incarcerated, while commutation shortens a sentence but lets the conviction stand. Similar to last year, Lee didn’t issue any exonerations, in which the governor declares that the applicant didn’t commit the crime.
Lee said that the actions he signed off on the 23 applications aligned with nonbinding recommendations from the state Board of Parole, with no victims speaking in opposition.
Of the thousands of applications before Lee’s desk, only Michelle Lockwood-Tipton of Sevier County received a commutation.
According to the governor’s office, Tipton was convicted of first-degree murder after her boyfriend at the time killed Pamela Hale, who was working at motel in eastern Tennessee. Her boyfriend, who she married a day after Hale’s murder using the money they robbed, was also convicted of first-degree murder.
Tipton has served 21 years in prison and was not eligible for parole until 2052.
However, with Lee’s intervention, Tipton will now be eligible for parole. She will not immediately be released from prison, per the governor’s office.
“It was determined that she was shocked by the killing and unaware that that was going to happen,” Lee said.
Lee added that Tipton has since been “exceptional” throughout her incarceration, noting that she’s currently working to get her Master’s degree in theology.
Meanwhile, the 22 pardons include: Amanda Vaughn of Perry County; Ann Marie Byrd of Davidson County and Williamson County; Brendan Sullivan of Blount County; Cheryl Douglas of Rutherford County; Chris Ann Hobson of Fayette County; Christopher Park of Davidson Sumner and Wilson counties; DeAndre Brown of Shelby County; Demetria Garner of Davidson County; Donnell Spraggins of Shelby County; Catrina Cabe of Hamilton County; Eddie Criswell of Madison County; Edward Guthrie of Bradley County; Jimmy Harris of Overton and Putnam counties; Joseph Claggett of Davidson County; Joshua Owens of Bradley County; Kamiko Michelle Paris of Hamilton County; Kevin Campbell of Hamilton County; Melissa Whitehead-Gregory of Tipton County; Rhonda Shelton of Davidson County; Robert Scales of Davidson County; Tara Woods of Hamilton County; and Tylor Trotter of Knox County.