BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A re-hearing was held Monday, April 24 to determine whether or not a man who has served the past 53 years for a 1963 murder should be eligible for the possibility of parole.
Nearly 50 years ago, then 17-year-old Henry Montgomery was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Charles Hurt, 44. Now 70-years-old, Montgomery grew up in prison, but may get a shot at life without bars.
The United States Supreme Court used Montgomery's case when they ruled last year that juveniles 18 and under sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for murder was unconstitutional. It's why Montgomery's case was re-heard.
In April, Montgomery met with Deputy Hurt's family behind closed doors. Montgomery apologized for his actions and the family accepted that apology.
At his re-hearing, his defense lawyer Lindsay Blouin presented seven witnesses to testify to Montgomery's character while at Angola.
Stephen Lynch, who used to work for Prison Enterprises, testified that Montgomery worked in the silk screen shop and while there, inmates were rated annually. During Lynch's four years, he said Montgomery received two excellent ratings and two better than satisfactory. Both are the two highest ratings an inmate can get. Lynch also said Montgomery received two 'employee of the month' awards in August of 2010 and June of 2011.
Montgomery is "someone who is always doing their job," Lynch said.
One of Montgomery's supervisors at the silk screen shop testified that he had worked in the shop 15 years. He said it was a privilege for inmates to work in a shop and they had to behave by doing the "right things outside and no write-ups." He said it wasn't often that there was an inmate who had worked in a shop for 15 years. During Montgomery's performance review in 2014 and 2015, he received the highest rating possible of excellent.
Correction Capt. Juan Anthony testified that it was rare for an inmate who had been incarcerated 53 years to have less than 25 write-ups. Montgomery had been written up 22 times in his 53 years. Defense lawyers pointed out Montgomery was behind bars at Angola when it was considered one of the bloodiest prisons in the country.
"Montgomery was a scared 17-year-old who made a terrible split-second decision," Blouin said. "He is not the worst of the worst of these cases. He's never had a free day as an adult."
The state's attorneys argued that Montgomery still had 22 write-ups in 53 years, he has no family to go home to and he was almost 18 at the time of the murder. They added Deputy Hurt's hands were in the air and he was moving backwards when Montgomery shot him dead. They added they cannot get his criminal records because records do not exist for when he was juvenile and he "does not appreciate the consequences of his action."
Blouin fought back saying Montgomery told police he killed Deputy Hurt the day of the shooting. She added that he told police he was scared and thought the deputy was reaching for a gun.
"Henry Montgomery is one of the model inmates," Blouin said.
Montgomery asked to say a few words at his re-sentencing on Monday, April 24.
"I'm sorry this had to happen. Just sorry for the whole situation," Montgomery said.
"I have all the respect for the judicial system, but the Supreme Court got this wrong, 110 percent wrong. All they thought about was the defendant. They didn't think about the family. They didn't think about the victims. They didn't think about anything else," Deputy Hurt's grandson, J.P. DeGravelles, said.
DeGravelles, 44, and now a Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Deputy, spoke about how much his life was impacted because of his grandfather's death. So much so that he said his mother did not want her son raised in the conditions she was living in after her father's death, so she gave him up for adoption.
It was just four years ago that DeGravelles found his birth mom, Becky Wilson, 63.
"I did not want to bring a child into the house I hated so much. I made the choice to give my son up for adoption," Wilson said.
Wilson was only 9-years-old when her father was killed in November of 1963. She described the years following her father's murder as spending "53 years in somewhat of a prison," saying her and her family received threats at home and at school. She said she remembers being checked out of school early that day, only to be told the terrible news of her father.
"I had never seen anyone look broken before. My mother was broken. The glue that held the family together had melted away," Wilson said.
Linda Woods is also Deputy Hurt's daughter. She was only 6-years-old when her father died.
"He was my whole world. I remember being picked up from school, told I will never see my father again," Woods said.
The family met with Montgomery at Angola in April behind closed doors and has forgiven him.
"I have forgiven him in my heart. I do forgive Henry, but I do believe the sentence was correct," Woods said.
A sentencing date has been set for June 21st.