OLYMPIA -- A state law that might never have been used before could allow Gov. Chris Gregoire to stop the scheduled Monday release of a man convicted in a brutal attack on a Richland police officer.
Jerry Dean Lain stabbed Officer Mike Fitzpatrick seven times before taking the officer's gun and shooting Fitzpatrick in the abdomen and face near Columbia Park in 1982.
The 29-year-old father of two was severely injured and underwent numerous surgeries, while Lain has been in prison ever since his conviction for first-degree assault.
But the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, much like a parole board, recently approved Lain's release. He must return to the state of Iowa, where he was wanted for a parole violation when he attacked Fitzpatrick.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Fitzpatrick has said he believes the judge in the case, who is no longer alive, wanted Lain to spend the rest of his life in prison and has asked Gregoire to overrule the board using a little-known state law.
The governor's attorney and her senior policy analyst for criminal justice are researching whether Gregoire can overrule the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
The law states: "The governor may cancel or revoke the parole granted to any convicted person by the board. The written order of the governor canceling or revoking such parole shall have the same force and effect and be executed in like manner as an order of the board."
But at least one corrections department official can't remember when a governor ever overturned an sentencing review board decision.
"I have never seen any governor do this," said Eldon Vail, secretary of the Washington Department of Corrections. "We're all learning as we go with this."
Vail called to update Fitzpatrick after the former Richland cop spoke with reporters Monday about Lain's pending release and asked the governor to intervene.
"One of the things Vail told us is we definitely have the governor's attention," Fitzpatrick said, who still works in law enforcement in the state.
Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the governor, told the Herald on Wednesday that no one can find where a Washington governor has used the power.
"It hasn't been used in at least 30 years," she said. "I don't know if it's ever been used."
Lynne DeLano, chairwoman of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, said earlier this week that when Lain is released he is responsible for catching a train or plane to get to Iowa, where he will stay in a halfway house.
Just months before the Richland attack, Lain was released from prison in Iowa for stabbing a man during a bar fight. While incarcerated, he blinded another inmate by tossing acid in his face, and he attacked another inmate with a claw hammer, according to state records.
If the governor decides not to intervene, Fitzpatrick might try to get an injunction to stop Lain's release, he said.