Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Keeping The Convicted Behind Bars

By: Mike Vasilinda Email
By: Mike Vasilinda Email

By Mike Vasilinda
July 10, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Each year hundreds of families whose loved ones have been murdered make the trek to Tallahassee to keep convicted murderers in prison. A new change to legislation means the families won't have to relive their grief quite as often.

Linda Kennedy's police officer husband was murdered in 1974.

Office John Kennedy's killer got life, which back then meant 25 years. Since 1999, Linda has brought her family to Tallahassee to say no to the killer's parole.

Linda Simpson, wife of murdered police officer: "The pain and hardship a family endures when a loved one is taken from you is such a brutal way... in such a brutal way is indescribable"

First the family came every two years because state law said that's how often the killer deserved a hearing, then it was lengthened to five years. Now a new change pushes the hearings to every seven years. Linda's oldest daughter Dawn says the change will be a relief.

Linda Simpson, wife of murdered police officer: "It's painful, you know, it's never going to be removed, it's never going to go away. So, I'm glad that we got from five to seven years."

Only a small percentage of victims actually show up, in part because these cases are 35 and 40 years old. On the other side, the family of the inmates say this hurts them.

"I need my husband, my best friend, my soul mate. Home, I need him home."

But the family of John Kennedy, which last made their case in 2008, is now happy they don't have to come back until 2020.

Dawn Kennedy Overton: "It's very emotional, it stirs up everything."

But when the time comes, they say they will be here just as they have in the past.

Florida abolished parole in 1995. But many convicted before then are still eligible to be paroled. The Commission meets most Wednesdays in Tallahassee.


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