DA calls for sentencing reform after death of Memphis officer - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

DA calls for sentencing reform after death of Memphis officer

Tremaine Wilbourn(Source: SCSO) Tremaine Wilbourn(Source: SCSO)

In the wake of Memphis Police Officer Sean Bolton's death by a suspect who was let out of prison early, a Tennessee district attorney is calling for tougher sentencing laws.

One of the counties in D.A. Michael Dunavant's district is Tipton County, where Tremaine Wilbourn was convicted of robbing a bank at gunpoint. 

"What most people are interested in is how much time is that person going to be actually locked up or incarcerated," Dunavant said.

If Wilbourn served his full sentence for that crime, he would have been in prison through June. And despite Wilbourn's case being federal, state prosecutors like Mike Dunavant say his early release sets a bad example.

"We, as prosecutors, are frustrated by that," he said. 

Wilbourn remained out on parole even though he tested positive for marijuana.

"The state sentencing guidelines take into consideration the available capacity of our prisons and local jails," said Dunavant, who supports the abolishment of parole. "I really think there needs to be a legislative review of this."

Germantown Senator Brian Kelsey is on the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee. 

"We absolutely need truth in sentencing in Tennessee," he agreed. "We're basically lying to the public when we hand down a 10-year sentence, but you only have to serve 30 percent."

Sen. Kelsey applauds Governor Bill Haslam's Task Force on sentencing and recidivism for making truth in sentencing its number one recommendation on Thursday morning.

"The task force recommended establishing a date, which would be the absolute earliest date at which an offender could be released," Kelsey said.

If the governor doesn't change the sentencing schedule, Sen. Kelsey will introduce a bill in January.

When asked for response to the debate, Senator Lee Harris said there is time to investigate what went wrong with Wilbourn, but "today should be reserved for mourning this fallen hero." 

Federal Public Defender's Office was unavailable to comment on this discussion. Shelby County Public Defender's Office cannot comment on a case they could represent.

To read Wilbourn's warrant and learn more about the terms of his probation, click here.

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