Rendell commutes sentences for three convicted of slayings

    Governor Rendell today commuted the sentences of three Pennsylvania prisoners, after they’ve spent decades behind bars.  The governor signed the orders at 11:15 Thursday morning.

    Keith O. Smith, William Fultz and Tyrone Werts were convicted for separate Philadelphia murders during the 1970’s.  Governor Rendell’s Spokesman, Gary Tuma, says none of the men killed anyone.

    “They were accessories, and in all cases the actual person who committed the crime received lighter sentences, and in some cases are already out of jail,” Tuma said.  “These men have served very lengthy sentences, and so the governor thought it was appropriate at this point to grant them clemency.”

    For example, Tyrone Werts drove a getaway car during a 1975 robbery at a Philadelphia speakeasy, during which one man was killed.  Now 60, Werts received his bachelor’s degree while in Graterford Prison.

    Tuma says the men will spend a year in a halfway house before going off on their own.

    “That’s actually a statutory requirement.  The governor has no discretion over that,” said Tuma.  He added, “the governor at his discretion established some conditions that if the men are convicted of future crimes, that their parole could be revoked.”

    It’s unclear when the three will be released from prison, but Tuma says they should be getting out soon.

    Rendell has granted clemency to just two other prisoners during his term as governor.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.