Seven inmates serving life sentences at Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Md., are likely to be paroled next month without the governor's approval as a result of an order issued Tuesday by a Baltimore Circuit judge.
Judge John Carroll Byrnes ordered the state to release the seven men -- six convicted murderers and a convicted rapist -- by Aug. 10 unless it can prove that the inmates have committed offenses while in prison that would justify their continued incarceration.
The judge's order followed a ruling last month by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which held that a 1982 law requiring the governor's approval for the release of Patuxent prisoners serving life sentences could not be applied to those who entered the prison before the law took effect.
Before 1982, paroles at Patuxent were the sole authority of an independent review board. Between 1983 and 1988, that board had recommended each of the seven inmates for parole, but state governors had blocked their release.
The prisoners slated for release have served 11 to 17 years. Among them is a Prince George's County man, Jesse N. West, 56, who was sentenced in 1973 to two consecutive life sentences for the murders of a Frederick County gas station attendant and a Prince George's supermarket manager.
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. is planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals ruling.