MONROE -- Jerry Dean Lain choked up Tuesday as he recalled what it was like telling his mother he wouldn't be home for Christmas.
After spending 28 years behind bars for nearly killing a Richland police officer, Lain had been looking forward to returning to Iowa and living with his family. He had completed almost every available crime-related program behind bars and a state review board had found him parolable and ready to re-enter society.
But on Dec. 16 -- just days before Lain was set to walk out of prison and board a train for the Midwest -- Gov. Chris Gregoire blocked his release by invoking a little-used provision in state law. Lain learned of the governor's order the next day, about six hours after he had been moved to a segregation unit in case the announcement wasn't in his favor.
"My first response was, 'Has anybody told my mother not to show up at the bus station?' " he said Tuesday. He was worried about his mom driving 60 miles in icy conditions when he wouldn't be there. "That was the hardest phone call I ever had to make. ... But I deal with it."
He said he "didn't take this lightly," but remained calm after the cancellation and went back to his old cell four days later.
Now, Lain faces up to five more years in a Washington prison.
Lawyer Richard Linn asked Tuesday that his client be given the "shortest possible minimum term." He said he would ask for a sentence of just one more day, but admitted he didn't expect to be taken seriously.
It's a request the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board must balance with that of the victim, former Officer Mike Fitzpatrick, who has told board members and the news media he believes Lain has not changed and should spend the rest of his life in prison. The board also must consider public safety at a time when people are on edge about releasing violent offenders following a series of police killings in Washington and across the country.
Linn acknowledges that what his client did in 1982 was horrific and deserved punishment, but adds that Lain now is being judged by the public for who he was at age 25 instead of as an improved 53-year-old man.
"I just hope that you can make a really well-informed decision," Linn, of Bellevue, told the board. "This is Mr. Lain's life here. He was about to walk out the doors just before Christmas, and he would like to have that opportunity again."
Lain is being held in the Twin Rivers Unit at the Monroe Correctional Complex. He went before the board Tuesday to plead his case for being a free man in the near future, and was joined by his previous corrections counselor, Veltry Johnson, and new counselor William Thacker.
The Herald was granted exclusive access to the hearing by the review board and the state Department of Corrections. The 1-hour, 15-minute hearing was held inside the prison in a secured room.
Fitzpatrick did not attend the hearing, but he addressed the board in February.
The board generally adds anywhere from six months to five years onto a sentence at a time. The issue of whether Lain should be released was not discussed.
A decision could be made in four to six weeks, though the board said it may take longer, given all of the documents and letters to review.
"I am truly sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused Officer Fitzpatrick and his family," Lain said, noting that he has spent days and nights crying about it. "Make no mistake, I'm not trying to minimize anything. What I did that night was terrible. I realize that."
Lain told the three-member panel that statements made by Fitzpatrick and media reports over the past few months have been "false," "grossly exaggerated" and "misleading." He said he has "the right to have the truth be told" and said it was "extremely unfair" of the governor to base her decision on those comments and his past without giving him the opportunity to speak.
"I'm not the same man I was 28 years ago," Lain said. "I'm truly sorry I hurt Officer Fitzpatrick and the community. ... I wish I could take it all back, but I can't."
Lain said he had some setbacks in his earlier years in prison, including a couple dozen infractions, but pointed out that his last disciplinary problem was in late 2003 for a verbal threat. He said he will accept spending the rest of his "natural life" in prison if so ordered, but that decision should be based on truth.
On Sept. 7, 1982, Lain stabbed Fitzpatrick seven times, then shot him twice. Fitzpatrick had responded that night to what he thought would be a routine call of a car prowler near the Richland Y.
Fitzpatrick had massive stomach injuries and a splintered jaw, but miraculously survived.
Lain was convicted of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and vehicle prowling. A Benton County Superior Court judge sentenced him to a maximum of life in prison, but in the mid-1980s the review board reset his minimum term at 20 years after a change in the state's sentencing scheme.
The standard range at the time was six years and five months to eight years and six months. Lain has served 28 years and four months, his lawyer said.
Lain's prison history dates to 1976 in Iowa, where he was imprisoned until 1982 for stabbing a man during a bar fight. While in an Iowa prison, he permanently blinded another inmate by tossing acid in his face.
He was released just five months before the attack on Fitzpatrick, and had left Iowa without the permission of his parole officer.
Lain clarified for the board Tuesday that he actually was the victim, and not the assailant, in a claw hammer attack on an inmate, contrary to reports in the media and in state documents. He showed the four-inch scar on the side of his head. He also disputed a board document that says he stabbed two students when he was 15, saying he had not denied it at previous hearings for self-preservation while in prison.
In June 2010, the board decided that he was fit for parole and needed to "submit an out-of-state parole plan to Iowa only." The state cited difficulties in finding a work release facility in King or Pierce counties that would take him due to "tension surrounding high profile cases."
Lain was to be released Dec. 20 and had planned to move in with his mother and stepfather in Burt, Iowa, work on neighboring farms, participate in chemical dependency aftercare and "start over." He was going to be supervised by the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Gregoire's reversal came after Fitzpatrick -- who now is working undercover in law enforcement at the state level -- brought attention to Lain's pending release. The last time a Washington governor had revoked a sentence was 30 years ago.
Lain said he had one question for board Chairwoman Lynne DeLano and board members Betsy Hollingsworth and Dennis Thaut: "Can you tell me how you were wrong when you found me previously parolable?"
"We're not going to answer," DeLano responded.
Linn, who described Fitzpatrick's actions in the days leading up to Gregoire's involvement as "intense lobbying," said he took issue with some of the victim's recent comments.
Fitzpatrick in January told the Herald: "I don't care how much he's changed supposedly, which I don't think he's changed a bit. I think he's gotten worse."
"That statement is not supported by the record and is in fact outrageous," Linn said to the board.
Lain has worked in the prison kitchen for 5 1/2 years, counsels younger inmates and has participated in programs dealing with nonviolent communication, stress/anger management and victim awareness, according to Lain and his attorney.
Board member Thaut said the record shows Lain is "working as hard as you can" and is on the right track. "There is no magic formula for this. I'm sure you're aware of that," he said.
Hollingsworth added that it might not hurt Lain to take some of those courses again because it has been six years since he last participated.
At the conclusion of the hearing, before shaking the hand of each member, Lain thanked them for their support, prior decisions and for standing up for him when they recommended he was ready for parole.