JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Thursday was an emotional day as one by one, grieving family members of Mike Locke, stood up to tell a parole board in Johnson City why the man that killed their loved one deserved to be in prison.
Mike Locke was hit and killed by a drunk driver while putting up campaign signs along the road for now Tennessee State Representative Bud Husley in June 2014. James Hamm was sentenced to 14 years in prison for vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of the accident in May 2016, but less than 15 months later he is up for parole. By law, prisoners must serve 30 percent of the time they are sentenced to be eligible for parole, but there’s a loophole.
“The outrage in the community is over the fact that we shouldn’t even be here. He just got sentenced 15 months ago,” Representative Husley said. “Evidently the state law has provided a mechanism that we need to repair that says if you have good time days earned that evidently comes in front of the 30 percent and in this case it certainly did.”
Representative Husley says he is a big advocate for truth in sentencing and plans to bring the subject up during the general assembly, meaning criminals must serve all of the time they are sentenced. He says the mechanism for prisoners being able to earn time off is something the general assembly needs to fix.
“The fact that they are here so early in this process to already have to fight what they’ve already fought and dealt with is just awful,” said Representative Husley.
David Locke, Mike Locke’s brother, said he couldn’t agree more.
“It’s not a board game. It’s life and death. You can’t just get a card that says hey I’m going to get out of jail. Doesn’t happen that way,” said David Locke.
Debbie Locke, Mike Locke’s widow, gathered more than 5,500 signatures for a petition against Hamm’s parole. That’s more than 10 percent of the population of Kingsport.
“That is, in my opinion, the public speaking very loud about how they feel about parole and drunk driving and stricter laws,” said Debbie Locke. “This process just keeps opening the wound. There’s been no time to heal.”
The Locke family will have to wait up to 10 days before they know if Hamm will be granted parole. It will take four concurring votes from the parole board to reach a final decision.